Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Funny... but also true in part; and a good question to answer

We vote on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November instead of on the weekend like smart people because of horse buggies and stuff. /via @markokloos
Actually, that is in part true... And it brings up a good question for those who are not familiar with American history...

Why do we vote on the first Tuesday, after the first Monday in November?

 The day we vote isn't in the constitution (as many assume). In fact, the law that defines when we do vote, was passed just one month after constitution went into full effect.

 Actually, it's among the very first pieces of U.S. Federal law:
 3.USC§1: The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.
So, why did our founding fathers decide on that particular day?

It actually does have to do with horses and buggies and stuff.

When the law was first passed, men didn't work on Sundays... and they were not supposed to travel etc.. Also, the majority of American voters were farmers (all voters were landowning men, most of whom were farmers).

The American system of voting has always been based on counties; and importantly, at the time, all voting was done at your county seat.

The way the county system in the U.S. was set up, was to have the seat of each county be a maximum of one days ride away from the edges of the county in each direction (or one days ride TO the county seat); and for the most part it still works that way east of the mississippi.

As it would take up to a full day to travel from the outskirts of the county, to the county seat, and as men couldn't travel on Sundays; it was necessary to have Monday as a full travel day, and Tuesday was the earliest day of the week for election day.

It could have been later in the week of course, but in many farm communities, and fishing communities, market day was Wednesday or Thursday; and it was important that people were back from their county seats the night before market.

So your landowners would prepare for their journey Monday morning, leave and travel all day Monday to get to the county seat; stay overnight in the county seat, voting as soon as the polls opened in the morning, and doing whatever errands they may have needed to do. Then they leave to travel back to their homes the rest of the day Tuesday, so they could prepare for market the next day.

As you can see, voting was far more involved, and far more difficult, when this nation was founded.

Ok, so that's why election day is a Tuesday... but why November?

Well, the laws establishing the electoral college rules required that: 
3.USC§7"The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct". 
Congress also established that the certified electoral votes of each state must be delivered to the U.S. Capitol (to the vice president in his role as the president of the senate actually, 3.USC§11) by "the fourth Wednesday of December" (3.USC§12).

Initially there was no requirement that the choosing be in November, but when congress adopted the election laws of 1792, they specified that the choosing of electors in the states be some times in  34 days before the first Wednesday in December.

This was so that the election would be close to the end of the year, after the harvest had completed, but still giving electors time to travel to the state capitols to certify their electoral college votes per state; and to deliver and certify their states electoral votes to the national capitol by the deadline.

In 1845, in part due to irregularities in the elections of 1836, 1840, and 1844; congress changed the law so that instead of allowing the election to be any day within that 34 day period; every state around the country would have their choosing of electors on the same day.

...and that's where we got our modern election day.