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Why Tuesday?

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"Why don't we vote on a weekend when more people have the day off? Why do we vote on a Tuesday?" are questions I frequently am asked when I address groups about our election day history.

The people had to have the opportunity to vote before the Electoral College met, and the original date of the meeting of the electors was the first Wednesday in December, so everything was backtimed to that date. 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."

Early in the 19th century, states held the elections on a variety of dates within that 34-day period, so in 1844 a bill was introduced specifying a uniform election day for all states. The wording of the bill that passed in 1845 noted that voting should take place the "first Tuesday after the first Monday..." as that would always keep it within the 34 days prior to the December Electoral College meeting date. (The first election where this new schedule was applied was 1848.)

Then in 1887 the date of the meeting of the Electoral College was moved to the second Monday in January. Though the date of our elections actually could be any time during the autumn, the U.S. 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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