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Election Day

Election Day 2018 and 2019

Election Day is a public holiday for citizens in only some states to elect their public officials into a variety of governmental offices. This holiday occurs on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.

YearDateDayHolidayStates
20186 NovTueGeneral Election Day DE, HI, IL, IN, LA, MD,
MI, MT, NY & RI
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For federal offices, Election Day also occurs in even rather than odd years. Presidential elections occur every four years. Using Election Day for local and state elections is often done for the sake of convenience. Although an Election Day is set aside for voting, early voting is still authorized in many states.

The History of the Election Day Holiday

In the United States, the 1788 federal election was not regulated by a federal law. By 1792, federal law enabled each state to conduct their own presidential elections within a 34-day period. November became a convenient month for elections during this era because harvests would have been finished and the worst winter storms would not have arrived yet. In an agrarian society without easy transportation methods, these were important societal factors.

However, it was found that states with later elections were often influenced by the success or failure of candidates in other states. This led to states who voted last in close elections often determining the outcome for the entire election.

In 1845, Congress decided to choose a uniform date for presidential elections. Although many theories exist as to why Congress chose the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, the actual reasons are documented in historic Congressional debate regarding the bill dated in December 1844. Congress had initially selected the first Tuesday of the month, but it was pointed out that, in some years, the period of time between the first Tuesday of the month and the first Wednesday in December, when electors meet in the capitals of their states to vote, exceeded 34 days. This excess would actually be a violation of the Electoral College law, so the bill was changed to choose the first Tuesday following the first Monday of the November.

Establishing this new rule means that there are always 29 days between Election Day and the first Wednesday in December. Because of this change, November 2nd is the early day on which Election Day may fall. Tuesday was also established as the day of choice because, in an agrarian American society, farmers often needed a full travel day to get to their county seat by horse-drawn vehicles and vote.

Making a voting day on a Tuesday meant this travel would not affect the Christian Sabbath and also would not interfere with the market day, which often fell on Wednesday in towns. The societal shifts away from an agrarian society now has many people objecting to Election Day being held on a Tuesday. The grounds for protest is that Tuesday is a working day that often decreases voter turnout, and that not all employers allow a flexible schedule for their employees to take part in Election Day.