Why is Election Day a Tuesday in November?

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (MEDIA GENERAL) — Like Thanksgiving and Easter, Americans are accustomed to floating holidays. They are scheduled based on other factors instead of a specific date and don’t land on the same day every year. Election Day is no different.

Election Day, according to federal law, will be held on the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November. The earliest an Election Day can be held is Nov. 2. The latest an Election Day can be held is Nov. 8, on which it falls this year – which many will find fitting given this never-ending political cycle.

But why Tuesday and why November and why not Nov. 1? The decisions were made with quite a bit of common sense.

A uniform date was first selected by Congress in 1845. Farming was essential to most American communities in the 19th century, so holding the election in November – after most harvests were complete – was ideal.

Elections routinely were held on Tuesday for two reasons: One, it did not interfere with the Biblical Sabbath. Two, it did not interfere with most farmer’s markets, which usually were open on Wednesdays.

The complicated premise to avoid holding elections on Nov. 1 is to avoid holding elections on All Saints’ Day, a holy day of obligation for Catholics.

Now that our society isn’t so agriculture-focused and Tuesday is considered a “work day” for most Americans, some critics believe we should make changes to Election Day laws. Some believe Election Day should be expanded to two or three days to allow people more opportunity to vote. Others believe Election Day should be declared a civic holiday so citizens have a clear opportunity to perform their civic duty. Some states have enacted legislation to that effect.