Since 1845, this has been the day designated for holding U.S. presidential and congressional elections.
Why in November?
Most Americans made their living from agriculture in 1845 and Congress felt that November was the most convenient month for farmers and citizens living in rural areas to get to the polls. Preparing fields and planting crops consumed lots of the public’s time in the spring and summer months. But by early November, the harvest was over in most areas, and the weather was still mild and dry enough to allow travel over the dirt and rock roads of the day.
Why on Tuesday?
In 1845, and for many years after that, only the county seats had a polling places. For many voters, this meant at least an overnight trip on horseback or buggy. If the election were held on Monday, people would have to leave on Sunday, which in 1845, was reserved for church.
Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday?
Congress wanted to make sure the election never fell on the first of November. November 1st is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church (All Saints Day). In addition, many businesses tallied their sales and expenses and did their books for the previous month on the first of each month. Congress feared that an unusually good or bad economic month might influence the vote if it were held on the 1st.
But, that was then and this is now True, most of us are no longer farmers, and while some citizens still ride a horse to vote, travel to the polls is far simpler than in 1845. But is there, even now, a single “better” day to hold a national election than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November?
School is back in session and most summer vacations are over. The closest national holiday — Thanksgiving — is still almost a month away, and you don’t have to buy anybody a gift. But the runaway best all-time reason for holding the election in early November is one Congress never even considered in 1845. It’s far enough from April 15 that we have forgotten about the last tax-day and haven’t started worrying about the next one.
Bottom line? Any day is a good day to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!