Why are our elections held on a Tuesday?

Why, in the US (and I guess maybe Canada) are elections held on Tuesday?

Congress enacted the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as Election Day in an 1845 statute. November because it would be after the harvest was over and Tuesday because it would be the earliest possible day that citizens farthest out in the boonies could get into town to vote, given that most people wouldn’t be starting that kind of journey on a Sunday (the sabbath).

It’s a coincidence that this year’s Canadian election falls on a Tuesday; the election is set at no less than 36 days after the election is called, and must be on a Monday, unless the Monday is a statutory holiday, in which case it falls on a Tuesday. Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, a holiday.

Most campaigns stick to about 36 days, but there isn’t actually a maximum campaign length other than the fact that Parliament must sit once every 12 months at minimum, so that would have to be taken into account. Something between 36 and 60 days is common, based mostly on other holidays (Christmas), or traditional vacation time (construction holiday in Quebec, etc).

UK elections are always held on a Thursday - I’m not aware of any reason for it, though, and I think the tradition only dates from about 1918 or so.

Australian elections (federal, state and local) are always held on a Saturday. People unable to vote on a Saturday for religious reasons (e.g., Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists) can get a postal vote. (You can get a postal vote for other reasons too, of course). Since they are held on Saturdays, it’s very common for polling booths to be in schools.

Since the question has been answered… For convenience, silly!

It’s very common for polling places to be at schools in the U.S, too, even though we vote on Tuesday when school is in session. My polling place is usually a school, and when I vote I often see the pupils in the corridor.


We use our local schools for polling places as well. On election day (a Tuesday, of course), the teachers have a professional day, and the students get the day off.

That’s odd, in California, I’ve never gotten the day off as a student or a teacher for voting day. I’ve stood in line at 6:00am to make sure I could vote and still get to work on time. And thank goodness I did, because once I saw the speed of the white-haired volunteer contingent, I despaired for those behind me.

Seriously, there has to be a better method, in which you can swipe your driver’s license and then show the picture to get your ballot?

That convoluted date method also guarantees that the election will never fall on All Saints’ Day, Nov 1st.

*** Ponder