It’s Election Day in the US today. But why are elections held on Tuesdays? And why the second Tuesday in November?
The story of our modern election day begins more than 200 years ago at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
Rather, the lack of this convention to set a national voting date.
The History of Election Day
Prior to 1845, there was no national voting date. So states set their own voting dates, leading to what former senate historian Don Ritchie described as a “crazy quilt of elections.” This was rather chaotic, but manageable, while communication between states was slow and election news took weeks to make it from one end of the nation to the other.
But the development of the railroad and the telegraph sped up communication between states. And with the rise of this technology arose fears that the election results in states with earlier election dates would influence the votes of citizens in states with later election dates.
So in 1845 Congress decided to set a national election day: the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But back to our original question: why Tuesday? And why November?
Why are Elections Held on Tuesdays?
In 1845, America was largely an agrarian society. Congress picked Tuesday because Wednesday was market day for many rural Americans. They also reasoned that if they held elections on Monday it would require many voters to travel to the polls on Sunday, traditionally a day of rest. Holding elections on Tuesday meant travel could occur on Monday and farmers could make it back home (or stay in town) for market day.
November became the month of choice because it fell after the main harvest season and before the cold winter months when travel would be difficult.
And that’s why, since 1845, Election Day is on a Tuesday – the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, to be exact.
RocktheVote.org – Check your registration status, voting requirements, and how to vote in your state.
Vote411.org – Check your registration status, see what’s on your ballot, and learn about candidates up for election.
Ballotpedia.org – A neutral (non-partisan) political encyclopedia. Learn about election dates, candidates, and election news.