That’s the date mandated by Congress for presidential and congressional elections. That means that Election Day can fall on a date between November 2 and November 8. In most cases, Election Day will fall on the first Tuesday in November, so why did Congress include the bit about the first Monday? Why not just say “the first Tuesday in November?” The answer lies in our county’s agrarian history, nature, religion and economics. Let’s take a look.
First of all, why November? This is because early American society was heavily agrarian, so by November harvest would be finished. That month was also nice because winter storms would not have gotten fully under way, and this was important during the late 18th and early 19th century because few roads were paved and bad weather made travel perilous. So now, why Tuesday? Well, with the lack of good roads, it usually took a full day of travel for voters to get their county seat to cast ballots. The Congressional Record shows that the early members of Congress chose Tuesday for election day so that voters would not have to travel all day on Sunday; it also allowed them to travel back home on Tuesday after voting and be back in town for market day, which was Wednesday in most towns. Finally, why the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Well, before there was a standard election day, Congress allowed states to hold their elections any time in the 34-day period before the first Wednesday in December. This was the day the Constitution set for certifying electoral votes for president and vice-president. So when a bill came forward to standardize Election Day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday was chosen instead of simply the first Tuesday in November because in some years there could be more than 34 days between the first Tuesday in November and the first Wednesday in December.
So when you go to the polls a week from today to cast your ballot (assuming you didn’t vote early or absentee if your state permits it), you’ll know why Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Join the Discourse!