Election Day holiday
2/21/2020, 6 a.m.
We are bolstered by the recent passage of bills in the House of Delegates and state Senate to eliminate the shameful and insulting Lee-Jackson Day and replace it with a state holiday on Election Day in November.
We hope the measures will move quickly toward final ap- proval and head to Gov. Ralph S. Northam, whose signature to change the state holiday is pretty much assured.
We have long argued against Virginia’s practice of shutting down state offices and giving more than 105,000 state employ- ees a paid day off in honor of Confederate traitors who waged a bloody war against the United States government in order to keep black people in human bondage. That is a travesty, as well as a mockery of the more than 300,000 who died — black and white — defending this nation.
Even West Virginia celebrates the day it broke off from the rest of Virginia and joined the Union — June 20 — after Virginia seceded during the Civil War to maintain slavery. That state celebrates joining the Union, not the Confederates who sought to tear it down.
Eliminating the Lee-Jackson holiday and replacing it with a meaningful holiday all right-minded Virginians can get behind is long overdue.
We hope passage of this legislation also will motivate state lawmakers, Gov. Northam and other state officials with jurisdiction to remove the Confederate shrine inside the State Capitol that is viewed annually by thousands of schoolchildren and visitors.
Virginia’s Confederate history can be told at museums, cem- eteries and battlefields. The Old House Chamber doesn’t have to hold a statue of Robert E. Lee and six busts venerating that stain on the state’s 400-year history.
On the holiday bill, we urge our readers to go to the Virginia Legislative Information System website, lis.virginia.gov, and look up SB 601 and HB 108 to see who voted for and against the identical measures. Both bills were introduced by members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus — Sen. Louise L. Lucas of Portsmouth, the Senate bill, and Delegate Joseph C. “Joe” Lindsey of Norfolk, the House version. Both measures were backed by a majority of Democrats, while a bevy of Republican lawmakers sought to keep the Confederate holiday.
Freedom, equality and justice are principles we endorse every time we cast a ballot. They are principles worth holding up and honoring with a state holiday. By making Election Day a state holiday, we are sending a message to people throughout the Commonwealth that voting is important and paramount to our democracy. We have a right — and a responsibility — to vote for leaders who will best represent us and support our ideas and interests in government at all levels.
That is a significant message, particularly for young people poised at the age to vote. We want future generations to under- stand that we believe voting is so important that the state gives its employees the day off so they can get to the ballot box.
Virginia will join at least eight states in honoring Election Day as a state holiday.
Kudos to state lawmakers who support this change.