If it’s the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to vote! The day we head to the polls to cast our votes for the candidates of our choice is known as Election Day. But why Tuesday?

Why not Monday? Or Saturday? Or the Thursday after the second Wednesday of April? Is there any reason why we vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November? To find out, we need to take a trip back in time.

Set your time machine to 1845. That’s a long time ago. Back then, some of the most populous states of today — California, Texas and Florida — weren’t even states yet. The U.S. Civil War was still almost 20 years away, too.

At that time, Congress needed to settle on a day for the country to vote in presidential and congressional elections. Back then, most Americans were farmers. The large cities of today were still many years away.

Farmers were busiest during the spring and summer months. By November, however, most crops had been harvested. Also, the weather was still usually nice enough in November to allow farmers to travel to town to vote. Since today’s modern highways didn’t exist back then, the winter months could make travel difficult for most people.

Given these very practical considerations, Congress thought November would be the best month for people to vote. But why Tuesday? Was there a practical reason for that, too?

As a matter of fact, there was! Keeping in mind travel issues, Congress realized that many people lived at least an overnight trip away from the cities where people could vote. Remember: people often traveled back then on horseback or by buggy.

To allow people to go to church on Sunday, Congress figured holding elections on Tuesdays would allow people to travel on Monday, vote on Tuesday and return home by Wednesday. The decision was as simple as that!

Congress further designated Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Why? They wanted to make sure that voting never took place on November 1, since November 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation (All Saints Day) in the Roman Catholic Church.

So we’ve voted on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November since Congress’ decision in 1845. Of course, most people are not farmers today. It’s also much easier to get to the polls. To change Election Day, though, Congress would have to decide that there’s a better day during the year to vote. To date, Congress hasn’t decided Election Day needs to be changed, so we keep up with the longstanding tradition started way back in 1845!

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    • We think it’s very interesting that the United States has voted on the same day for hundreds of years, Danny! It’s a pretty cool thing to think about, considering how much the U.S. has changed over the years! We are glad you learned something new today at Wonderopolis! Have a GREAT day! :)

  1. We thought today’s wonder was interesting because, we didn’t actually know it was only on a Tuesday. It’s funny to think that it was so farmers could travel! We think it’s strange that school and election schedules have so much to do with a history of farming.

    We think that tomorrow’s wonder will be about flying pigs, pigs and chickens, cookouts, Texas BBQ, or drive through restaurants.

    • We all learned something new today! We’re happy that Mrs. Ski’s AM Class is WONDERing about today’s election and why it’s still on a Tuesday! :)

      We hope you have a SUPER day and a parent, adult or sibling tells you about the voting process they completed today! Thank you for sharing your own Wonder guesses– we’ll see you tomorrow!

      P.S. Your guesses are making us hungry! :)

    • Hey there, Barbie Doll! We are oh-so-happy that you have learned something new about the voting process that takes place today! We think it’s interesting and cool to learn that the first Tuesday in November (after the first Monday) allowed enough time for voters to travel to and from the voting location! :)

  2. That video is really interesting! It really helps me understand how the election works! I thought they just counted up the votes and the candidate with the most was the winner.

    • That’s music to our ears, Mark! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about today’s Wonder video– we thought it was a great reminder for how the voting process works, too! We’re very proud of all your hard work and WONDERing today, Wonder Friend! Keep it up! :)

  3. We learned that when you vote you have to vote for the president that you think is the best. We learned that you can only vote on the first Tuesday AFTER the first Monday in November. They did that because the farmers were done harvesting the food. We learned that if we pick Mr. Romney in our state with the most electoral votes and he wins our state, he might be president of the United States of America.

    • You make a great point, Tigers in 1st Grade and K! We are excited that you shared all the new things you learned from today’s election Wonder! The candidate that receives the most electoral votes in each state will become President Elect! We Wonder if any of you have visited the polls with a family member or adult? :)

    • HOORAY, we’re so happy that Wonder Mania is sharing today’s election Wonder with your teacher! We’re so excited! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Hi there, Mr. G’s class! We’re so happy that you’re WONDERing about the voting process with us today! The harvest really determined when farmers could leave their farms without having to worry about their crops. During the months of September and October, many farmers were still tending to their crops. Yet, in November, most of the season’s work was complete, and it was still warm and safe to travel before the winter weather began in December.

      We are very proud of your questions, Wonder Friends! Keep up the super work! :)

  4. Today is Nick’s Birthday! We thought this wonder was interesting because we learned more about why Election Day is on Tuesday. It was Presidentially Perfect. Most of us are glad that this is almost over, although Mrs. Ski thinks it will go on and on like the Bush/Gore Election. The kids disagree because they think we will know who the President is tonight.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Buffalo Wild Wings (BW3), the expression “when pigs fly”, a BBQ, or Thanksgiving.

    • Happy birthday to our Wonder Friend, Nick! You and Wonder Friend Bryleigh share the same WONDERful birthday! HOORAY! :)

      We are glad that you are WONDERing about the election today; it’s important to understand how votes are collected and counted– especially since Election Day is today!!

      There are so many people voting that we may not have an answer tonight, like Mrs. Ski mentioned. However, only time will tell! We’ll be watching lots of coverage tonight as we find out which candidate each of the states have elected as president.

      Thanks for guessing tomorrow’s Wonder– we think you’re on the right track…! Also, you’re making us hungry with all your delicious ideas! :)

  5. Thanks for the Wonder! Wow, who knew the election wasn’t just counting up people’s votes?
    We can’t wait to see the results!
    We think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about flying pigs or scrumptious food!
    We are also going to research how many votes Hawaii gets.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends! We’re so excited to see that Mrs. Thomas’ Tigers are thinking about the election today! We sure are glad that today’s Wonder cleared up any confusion about the voting process! We liked the comparison between Kansas and California– they are both states, but one has more people than the other, so there vote should reflect that!

      We think your scrumptious Wonders are right on track…we’re excited to see what tomorrow’s Wonder will be! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy learning about the voting process in Hawaii and across the United States! See you soon! :)

    • We hope you’ll exercise your right to vote when you’re 18, Wonder Friend J! We Wonder if your teacher, family members or a friend can tell you about their experience visiting the polls? :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment about the election, Angel! It’s important to exercise your right to vote and to listen to each candidate’s opinions as they run for president! We hope you ask your family members and teachers about their experience at the polls today! :)

  6. I really liked today’s wonder because for one thing, it was perfect for today’s election day, and I thought it was really interesting how back in the old days, on Tuesday the people traveled to vote and be back on Wednesday. I also wish I could vote so I could vote for Barack Obama for a brighter future. I really liked today’s wonder! Thanks! :) :D
    =Berkleigh=

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us today, Berkleigh! We think it’s cool to learn how far some people traveled in order to exercise their right to vote! We’re glad that you are interested in the election– we hope you talk to a teacher or family member about their voting experience at the polls today! :)

  7. I never really thought about why Election Day is the day it is. It was interesting to read about all the reasons why the date was chosen. Maybe tomorrow’s Wonder will be about “when pigs fly.”

    • Thanks for letting us know that you were doing some WONDERing of your own about Election Day, Eoin! We hope you had fun learning about the origin of voting on the first Tuesday in November!

      We bet you’ll LOVE tomorrow’s Wonder… see you soon! :)

  8. The video helped me develop information, understand certain things I never even thought about. For example the man said that once everyone is done voting you can’t just go and add up all the states votes, you have to do way more than that!
    Sincerely, Danielle

    • Hi there, Danielle! Thank you for sharing your comment about our voting Wonder– it’s great that you are WONDERing about new things with us! We are so happy to hear that you are using your imagination to explore things you are curious about! You learn something new everyday and we’re so glad you are visiting Wonderopolis! Keep up the great work! :)

  9. Hi! A question from a non-American who always votes on Sundays: do people go after work? Do employers tolerate people taking a half-day to go vote? How does that work? Thanks!

    • What a great question, Ginny! Most voters in the United States vote on Tuesday, unless they file for an absentee ballot. Some people may be traveling or unable to get to a polling station, so they can vote early by filling out special paperwork!

      However, voters are entitled to their right to vote on Tuesday. Many people will leave work to go vote, but it depends on their personal schedule. Additionally, many states have laws that require companies to provide time off for employees in order to vote.

      Great Wonder! :)

    • Well thank you so much, Gabe! Now you’ll remember why you head to the polls on Tuesdays the next time you, or your family members, vote! :)

  10. I didn’t ever notice we voted on the first Tuesday in November. It was a neat video. I thought they counted up the votes by every person, not by the most votes by the state. I learned a lot from the video and small passage.

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