Election Day

The Quill Pen Pal

Election day falls on Tuesday, November 7th this year, but do you know how it came about?

For much of this country's history, the United States was a predominantly agricultural society. Lawmakers took that into account and decided November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural workers to travel to the polls and cast their respective votes. Remember, spring was planting time and the summer was consumed with working in the fields and tending to the crops. By November, the fall harvest was over, but the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over primitive roads.

Why Tuesday (or the first Tuesday after the first Monday)?

Since most residents of the rural U.S. had to travel large distances to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to begin traveling on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with church services and Sunday worship. Lawmakers also wanted to prevent Election Day from falling on the first of November for two reasons. First, November 1st is All Saint’s Day, an important (or obligatory) Holy Day 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 previous month’s economic success or failure might have an undue influence on citizen voting! Therefore, in 1845, Congress established Election Day.

Election Day is now a legal holiday in some states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. A number of other states also have laws that allow workers to take time off from employment without worry, and often without loss of pay. In recent years, a bill has been languishing around in the House of Representatives that would make Election Day a National Holiday—“Democracy Day,” but so far, nothing has developed out of it.

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