Why does the US vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November?
American federal elections are always set for the first Tuesday in November. It is a custom dating back to 1845 but why does it exist?
Elections are as American as apple pie or hot dogs. Another is coming up soon and will be held on the same day as usual; the first Tuesday of November. However, this wasn’t always the case.
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Before the streamlining of election law in 1845, states could hold elections on any day within 34 days before the first Wednesday of December. This proved problematic as knowing election results from states which conducted elections earlier than other states would invariably affect results.
So why was it set for a Tuesday?
History notes that back in the 19th century the US was much more agricultural than it is today. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise; the telephone, camera, and car would not be invented until the final third of the century.
This meant nearly everyone’s calendar worked on a farm-based timetable. Elections could not be held on the weekend, well that was the day for going to church. Elections could not be held midweek; people were selling their produce in the market. This meant Tuesdays were the prime election day. It allowed for travel time to ensure that people could vote on time without major disruption to their normal week.
What about November?
Like the original dating of the 34-day period before the first Wednesday of December, November was ideal. It avoided the important agrarian period of Summer and harvest collection while also getting around the issue of perilous weather in deepest Winter.