The Virginia house voted to remove Lee-Jackson Day from the list of state holidays this week.
The holiday which is observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January was celebrated to honor confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as “defenders of causes.”
In its place, the House bill suggested that the state replace it with Election Day, the first Tuesday after the First Monday in November, instead.
According to Gov.Ralph Northam, he already included the measure in his 2020 legislative proposals, noting that if Election Day turns into a state holiday, it’ll be a lot easier for Virginians to vote.
The governor also stated this in his State of the Commonwealth speech last month:
“We need to make Election Day a holiday,”
“We can do it by ending the Lee-Jackson holiday that Virginia holds … It commemorates a lost cause. It’s time to move on.”
A number of states and cities have already made Election Day a civic holiday. Some of these are states like Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, and New York. Offices on the state usually close, though it still depends on the state whether employees have paid time off to vote.
Authorities say that if Election Day successfully becomes a holiday, it may actually improve voter turnout. But it may not become a federal holiday anytime soon because it has drawn deep division along party lines.
In January 2019, Democrats presented a sweeping bill that would make Election Day a national holiday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted the measure would pay government workers to “hang out at the polls during an election” or campaign for candidates.
Lee-Jackson Day began more than 100 years ago. It is celebrated through parades with Civil War themes, wreath layings, and reenactments hosted by Confederate memorial groups. However, although these celebrations are continuously becoming unpopular, defenders of the holiday say it honors the history of Virginia.
A fan named Carson Via, who is wearing civil war uniform said this to a reporter at the last month’s Lee-Jackson Day:
“I think Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are some of the greatest men to have ever lived,”
“Great men and we’re all getting washed away.”
In the past, the city had covered the statues with a tarp to mourn the deaths of left counterprotester Heather Heyer and two state troopers who died during the 2017 white nationalist rally.
Based on the authorities, Confederate Memorial Day is still a statutory holiday in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Alabama also celebrates Lee’s and Jefferson Davis’ birthdays as their own state holidays, though the state combines Lee’s birthday with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
In 2015, the state of Georgia renamed the day “State Holiday” to remove mention of Lee and the Confederacy, though it still falls on the same day.
Because of this, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a proclamation in July announcing a holiday for a Confederate Army General and early Ku Klux Klan member. Florida and Texas casually observe Confederate Memorial Day without closing state offices.
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