Election Day in America
November 7, 2017 is Election Day across the United States of America. From an historical perspective, why do we hold elections on a Tuesday in November?
It all started in 1845, when Congress passed a federal law designating
the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election
Day. Prior to that, states could hold elections any time they wanted, as
long as it was within a 34-day period before the first Wednesday in
December. It turned out that system didn’t work well, because the
states that held early elections affected the national voting results in the
states that held later elections. Therefore, the U.S. Congress created
the current Election Day to standardize the date and process.
Why the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November? The
idea was to pick a date that worked best for the most voters. At that
time in U.S. history, the majority of voters were farmers. Generally,
farmers lived pretty far from town, so they needed a travel day to get to
their nearest polling place. Sunday didn’t work, because most
Americans went to church. Wednesday didn’t work, because that was
“Go to Market Day” in many American communities. So, Congress
picked Tuesday, which allowed for a travel day on Monday.
Since America was a farming society, November made the most sense.
Spring was planting season, autumn was harvest season, and winter
was difficult for travel. So, early November stuck as the best choice to
allow the most people the greatest opportunity to vote.
That’s how we got the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November
as Election Day in America.