Not only is the U.S. Election Day a firmly held American tradition but it is considered essential for the continuation of our democracy. It is on this event that citizens elect their leaders and vote upon important issues.
All U.S. federal elections have been held on a Tuesday since 1845. We are told that Tuesday was the earliest day of the week that rural people could get to a polling place. They could not leave on Sunday, their day of rest, and they traveled using slow horse-drawn wagons. The practice of voting on Tuesdays no longer rests upon these hardships. There are conveniently located polling places available throughout the U.S.A. for all voters.
The reason why Americans cast their votes in the month of November is also very practical. From its beginnings the U.S. Congress has met in December and adjourned in March because many of the senators and representatives were farmers. It was deemed necessary that everyone’s place was determined before each new Congressional session began. Today November elections allows for the transition of presidents who are inaugurated on January 20th or 21st. But that’s another story!
The actual date of each U.S. November election changes from year to year. It takes place on the Tuesday following the first Monday, meaning that it only occurs between November 2 and 8. While this formula sounds somewhat convoluted, it avoids scheduling elections on the 1st day of November, which is All Saint’s Day, a Catholic day of observance. That religious holiday no longer acts as a serious impediment to voting, but we keep the original schedule anyway.
It should be pointed out that most of the world does not vote on Tuesday. The countries that hold elections on weekends, like France, Germany, Thailand, Russia and Japan, report the highest levels of participation. The Why Tuesday? organization states that the United States ranks #139 only of #172 in world voter turnout. They claim that the greatest challenges that U.S. registered voters face in voting on Tuesday are work related. Many individuals cannot take time off to vote on a weekday.