Wednesday, November 03, 2004


In Australia, we vote on Saturdays because most people have at least Saturday afternoon off work -- and that means that voting doesn't clash with normal routine. So why do Americans mess up their work routine to vote on a Tuesday? One of my readers researched it for me and advises as follows:

"The Tuesday after the first Monday in November was initially established by federal law in 1845 for the appointment of presidential electors in every fourth year. In 1875, lawmakers established this day for electing representatives in every even numbered year. In 1914, it also became the day for electing U.S. senators.

Why early November? For much of U.S. history, America was a predominantly agrarian society. Lawmakers therefore took into account that November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural workers to be able to travel to the polls. The fall harvest was over, (spring was planting time and summer was taken up with working the fields and tending the crops) but in the majority of the nation the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over unimproved roads.

Why Tuesday? Since most residents of rural America had to travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to begin travel on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with church services and Sunday worship.

Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Lawmakers wanted to prevent election day from falling on the first of November for two reasons. First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote!"


No comments: