Why does America vote on Tuesdays? The practice goes back to when America was a mostly agricultural-based society. Despite having moved from 90% of the population in agriculture in 1790 to 2% today, we haven’t caught up to modern times or adjusted to the changes in our society.
To understand why the second Tuesday of November was chosen, you need to understand 19th century America life. Most people were farmers, devoutly Christian and needed time to travel. Sundays were out of the question because of church. Roads weren’t paved. There wasn’t widespread polling locations, you had one place to go to cast your vote. People had to g0 to their respective county seat to vote.
Why November? Since the majority were farmer. Spring was planting season; summer was consumed by working the fields. By November, the fall harvest was over. And in most of the country, the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over unpaved roads.
Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday?
Lawmakers needed to prevent Election Day from falling on the first of November for three reasons: religion, business and, politics.
- Religion: Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics that is also observed by some orthodox Christians and Protestants
- Business: Most businessmen were in the habit of closing their books from the preceding month on the 1st
- Politics: Congressmen was worried that the economic failures of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote. Even then, it was the “economy, stupid.” Though couched as “economic success or failure”, you can be assured that no one is being fired in good times.
For now, Election Day remains the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Early voting has expanded the traditional definition of Election Day, so there may be hope for changing this in the future. This year, more than a third of voters are expected to cast a ballot early.