November 5, 2012 11:13 am
Tomorrow, Americans across the country will head to the voting booth and cast their ballots for the next president of the United States. As always, this time-honored tradition falls on a Tuesday—but why? The answer, it turns out, has a lot to do with buggies and farmers markets.
The Founding Fathers met at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, NPR explains, but at the end of the meeting they still had not resolved a number of questions about how to run an entire nation. One of those issues involved the timing of federal elections. As a quick fix, they decided to leave it to individual states to set their own voting days, which led to several decades of “electoral chaos,” NPR writes, with random elections held at all different times, all over the country.
In 1845, Congress decided to straighten things out. Monday was out, lawmakers reasoned, since people would have to travel to the polls in their buggies on Sunday, which wouldn’t sit well with church-goers. Wednesday wouldn’t work either, since mid-week usually meant market day for farmers—and most citizens at the time were farmers. Again, Thursday didn’t fit the bill because of the buggy-traveling time allocation (which would cut into market day). And Friday? Well, NPR doesn’t say, but who wants to deal with such a serious issue at the very end of the week?
So, Tuesday was the day, and that seemed to work great for 19th century voters. “In the 1840s, elections were a big to-do — there was a lot of hoopla, there were parades,” [Senate historian Don] Ritchie says. “Whole families would come on wagons from the farms; people would get dressed up for the occasion.”
Though the America of buggies and markets has long since given way to minivans and supermarkets, NPR concludes, Tuesday remains the day we vote.
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