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Voting

Most elections are held on Tuesdays because of the lifestyle of early Americans. 

Q: Why are elections held on Tuesdays?

A: Tuesday elections date back to the 1800s.

Although some states hold primaries or other local elections on Saturdays, Tuesdays are “far and away the norm,” said Barry Burden, a political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison.

State and local governments held elections on different days of the week until the mid-1800s, when Congress mandated presidential and congressional elections be held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, he said.

That time of the year was chosen because it came after fall harvesting but before winter weather could disrupt traveling to voting sites.

Before the industrial revolution, voting meant traveling, Burden said.

Voting on a Sunday “would have been unacceptable because it conflicted with the Christian sabbath,” and holding elections on Monday would be too soon after the weekend, he said.

“Travel by foot or horse took time, so Monday would have been too soon after the weekend to hold an election,” Burden said. “Tuesday was thus the first practical day that a person could reasonably make it to the county seat for voting.”

With the growth of absentee voting, he said, voters have more options for when they can vote, so any concern about elections being held on a single day have waned in recent years.

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