Why is election day so late this year?
We’re finally nearing the end of an exhausting election season. After what feels like an eternity, the 2016 presidential election is ALMOST over. With only 19 days left, we can finally see the finish line. If this one feels especially long, it’s because election day is later than usual this year.
One of the biggest election myths is that elections fall on the first Tuesday in November. Actually, election day falls on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually a law that was passed by Congress in 1845. Additionally, the distinction between the “first Tuesday” and “Tuesday after the first Monday” isn’t usually important because the Tuesday after the first Monday is generally the first Tuesday anyways.
Unless, like this year, the first Tuesday of November is November 1st. Since November 1st falls before the first Monday of the month, the election has to take place after the first Monday, November 8th. Sounds kind of confusing, right?
The 1845 law actually helps alleviate confusion surrounding election day. Prior to the law being put in place, each state could choose when they held the election within the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December. On the other hand, having everybody voting on one day provided the normalcy needed to configure the results of the election and actually improved voter turnout. (Score!)
In 2012, Senate historian Don Ritchie explained to NPR why we vote on Tuesday. He told the publication,
"Lawmakers reasoned that Monday was out because people would have to travel to the polls in their buggies on Sunday, the Sabbath. And in a mostly farming society, Wednesday wouldn't work because that was often market day.
Additionally, Ritchie told NPR how important voting was to people in the 1840s. He said,
“In the 1840s, elections were a big to-do — there was a lot of hoopla, there were parades. Whole families would come on wagons from the farms; people would get dressed up for the occasion."
Voting is an incredibly important privilege we have that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Let’s do our part and vote, whether through early voting, voting absentee, or going to a nearby polling location!