Why is election day on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November?

Originally everything was back-timed so that the voting would be completed by the time the Electoral College was to meet on the first Wednesday in December; in 1792 it was specified that the election for presidential electors needed to be held “within 34 days preceding the first Wednesday in December, every fourth year.”

In 1844 a bill was introduced (passed it in 1845) specifying a uniform election day for all states. The original bill stated “the first Tuesday of November,” but it was amended to note the “first Tuesday after the first Monday…” Without that alteration, the first Tuesday did not always fall within 34 days preceding the meeting of the Electoral College. (The first election where this new schedule was applied was 1848.)

In 1887 the date of the Electoral College meeting was moved to the second Monday in January, in years following a presidential election; this wiped out the “within 34-days” issue. In 1936 another date change for the Electoral College occurred, and it’s the one we now abide by: The Electors now meet in their respective states to cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.

The country has maintained the earlier tradition of the “Tuesday after the first Monday in November.”

A Tuesday was selected because voters often had to travel to come in to town in order to vote. The government did not want people to have to travel on the sabbath (Sunday for most Americans), so a Tuesday was selected as being a preferred day of the week for voting.

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2 thoughts on “Why is election day on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November?”

  1. How can any early voting or late counting take place when This is the law? All ballots must be received on that day.

  2. This is an excellent question. With so many states allowing early voting, I’m going to go back and add this information into my article. But since you might not see the edited article, here is the answer to your question:

    The simple answer is that many states specify that they have the right to adjust the voting schedule. Under state laws, votes can be cast before the official in-person Election Day, to be added to the final tally.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states and the District of Columbia allow early voting with no excuses or justification required. Advance voting periods range from 4 days to 50 days.
    The group also says that all 50 states and the federal district allow absentee balloting. Some 20 states require a reason for an absentee ballot. Three states – Colorado, Oregon and Washington – mail ballots to all eligible voters.
    With the exception of votes from overseas military, mail-in ballots are to be postmarked by Election Day. This means that the vote tally may not be fully computed until a week or more after Election Day.

    Because we have never made Election Day a federal holiday, early voting helps make it easier for people to vote at their convenience. And in 2020, with the pandemic threatening the vote throughout the country, mail-in ballots or a larger span of time for in-person voting will help keep citizens safe.

    There are numerous safeguards to assure that there is no tampering with mail-in ballots.

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