Why Do Americans Vote On Tuesdays?

Some traditions are so ingrained in our culture that we don't stop to question why they exist. Such is the case with the American tradition of voting on Tuesdays. Getting people to the polls can be tricky in and of itself, so why add the hurdle of voting in the middle of a work week?

This tradition dates back to 1845, when a law was passed by Congress to establish the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the day for presidential elections. Before then, states set their own election dates, so elections would be held at different times around the country. The legislative branch soon followed: Tuesday was designated as election day for U.S. House members in 1875, and for senators in 1914.

But why Tuesdays, you ask? Because America was largely comprised of agrarian Christians who based their schedules around both the Sabbath and travel convenience. Sundays were dedicated to church, and people needed a day (Monday) to travel to their county seat. You might fight traffic to reach your polling place, but imagine how much worse the trek was in 1875.

When choosing the most convenient month, farmers nixed both spring (due to planting) and summer (for tending the crops). Fall harvest was over by November, thus November became America's election month. This time of year was also conducive for traveling over unpaved roads, as most of the country was still experiencing mild weather.

But why is our election day not the first Tuesday, but the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November? According to NPR, lawmakers made this decision based on the American holy trinity: religion, business, and politics. They didn't want election day to fall on November 1st, since that's All Saints Day, the day that many businesses do the books from the preceding month, and the day when economic reports come out for the previous month, thereby influencing the election.

This tradition is widely viewed as antiquated, and many members of Congress and activists have advocated to move the now inconvenient voting day to a different date. In particular, a group called "Why Tuesday" was formed in 2005 to push for a weekend election day, since they say that would improve voter participation. But, for now, we vote on Tuesday. Watch the videos below to learn more about the U.S. electoral process.

America's Timeline For Voting on Tuesday

Learn more about the process Congress took to establish U.S. election day.

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Written by Curiosity Staff November 7, 2016

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