Why did Congress (in 1845) select the first Tuesday in November
as Election Day?
We found a terrific response to your question at the web site of
the Federal Election
Commission. Here's how they explain it:
". . . For much of our history, America was a predominantly
agrarian society. Law makers therefore took into account that
November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural
workers to be able to travel to the polls. The fall harvest was
over, (remember that spring was planting time and summer was taken
up with working the fields and tending the crops) but in the
majority of the nation the weather was still mild enough to permit
travel over unimproved roads.
Why Tuesday? Since most residents of rural America had to
travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote,
Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to
begin travel on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with
Church services and Sunday worship.
Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Lawmakers wanted
to prevent election day from falling on the first of November for
two reasons. First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of
Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the
habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st.
Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or
failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the
For more information, see our section on U.S. Elections.
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