Ever wonder why we always vote on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November? It has been this way since 1845, but how did it come to be?
It harkens back to the days when most Americans were farmers and ranchers. Congress felt that November was the most convenient month for farmers and those living in rural areas to get to the polls. Spring and Summer months were dedicated to preparing fields and planting crops. Whereas early November was a time when the harvest was complete and before the arrival of the harsh winter weather which would hinder travel over the unpaved dirt roads of the day.
Okay, so we started the tradition of voting in November due to the harvest cycle – but why not vote on November 1st? November 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church (All Saints Day). In addition, many businesses tallied their sales and expenses and did their books for the previous month on the first of each month. Congress feared that an unusually good or bad economic month might influence the vote if it were held on the 1st.
So too because of primitive roads and travel only by buggy or horseback that many folks needed to travel great distances, often requiring and overnight journey to reach their closest polling station. It was therefore determined the optimum voting day be on a Tuesday to avoid the need to travel on a Sunday, the day of rest reserved for attending religious services.
So, in 1845 the US Congress made the law, mandating that the presidential elections would be held every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Listen to a NPR radio story on the history behind Tuesday voting HERE.