Why do we vote on a Tuesday? Learn more about Election Day dates, history, great quotes, trivia, and more. Why, there’s even an election cake sure to please all parties!
Election Day History
To-day, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box, my throne!
–John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet (1807–92)
On January 7, 1789, the electors were chosen for the first U.S. presidential election. (George Washington was elected president on February 4.)
By an act of Congress on January 23, 1845, the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November was designated Election Day for future presidential elections.
The first such election took place on November 7, 1848. Whig Party candidate Zachary Taylor won out over Democrat Lewis Cass and Free-Soil candidate (and former president) Martin Van Buren. Taylor’s running mate was Millard Fillmore, who became the nation’s 13th president on July 10, 1850, upon Taylor’s untimely death.
The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand
The vote that shakes the turrets of the land.
–Oliver Wendell Holmes, American poet (1809–94)
When is Election Day?
National Election Day is always the 1st Tuesday following the 1st Monday in November.
|2016||Tuesday, November 8|
|2017||Tuesday, November 7|
|2018||Tuesday, November 6|
Why do we vote on a Tuesday? Before 1845, we were more of an agricultural society and November was a good time for elections because the busy harvest season was coming to a close. Many country folks had to travel quite a long way to get to a polling station so it made sense to hold elections on a Tuesday. This avoided religious holidays as well.
Election Day Weather
What weather’s in store for you as you go to the polling stations?
- If you’re within a week of elections, check your 7-day forecast!
- If the elections are further out, see your 60-day weather prediction!
Election Day Cake!
Did you know there was such thing as an Election Day Cake? Often yeasted fruit cakes, Election Day cakes started in the 1600s and were especially popular around the time of American independence. Try making it this year with our Election Day Cake recipe!
Election Day “Did You Know?”
Question: Who is credited with saying, “Americans will go across an ocean to fight a war, but not across the street to vote”?
Answer: The full quote is, “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” It is credited to Bill Vaughn.
Question: Which U.S. president has received the greatest number of popular votes in the past?
Answer: That distinction goes to Barack Obama who received 66.9 million votes in the 2008 election. Next in line is George W. Bush. In 2004, he won a second term with 62 million votes. Third in line is Ronald Reagan. In 1984, he won a second term with 54.5 million votes.
Question: Can you explain the electoral college?
Answer: The U.S. Constitution decrees that a “body of electors” will choose the president and vice president of the country. These electors are appointed by each state, through varying methods depending upon the state, as decided by each state’s legislature. The number of electoral votes allotted to each state depends on the number of Senators and Representatives to which each state is entitled; Congress has 100 Senators and 435 Representatives. Each state is allotted 1 electoral vote for each Senator (for a total of 2) and 1 electoral vote for each Representative. The number of Representatives each state has is based on its population. The District of Columbia is allotted 3 electoral votes. This yields a total of 538 electoral votes. Electors vote in their respective states in December. Most vote according to popular vote or to their pledge to their party (although in some states, they are not required to do so). In 48 states, the presidential candidate who receives a majority of the vote takes all of the state’s electoral votes. However, in Nebraska and Maine, the setup is different, and electoral votes can be split between candidates. Congress counts the electoral votes, now merely a formality, on January 6. The presidential candidate who receives a majority (270) of the 538 Electoral College votes wins the election.
Question: What were the symbols for the Republicans and Democrats before they were an elephant and a donkey?
Answer: Although Thomas Nast, a caricaturist and illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, created and made famous our current symbols for the parties—the Democratic donkey in 1870 and the Republican elephant in 1874—there was an earlier symbol for Democrats. During the election of 1840, between the Democrats and the Whigs (the Republican party as we know it didn’t exist until 1854), the Whigs derided a Democratic candidate for Congress in Indiana, Joseph Chapman, with the slogan “Crow, Chapman, Crow!” However, Chapman crowed so successfully that he won the seat (though the Whigs were triumphant elsewhere). In Chapman’s honor, the Democrats adopted the rooster as their symbol.
More Election History
November 7, 1893: The state of Colorado granted women residents the right to vote.
October 23, 1915: 25,000 women marched in NYC demanding the right to vote.
August 26, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment was adopted, granting women the right to vote. It was nicknamed the “Anthony” amendment in recognition of the lobbying efforts of suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
July 2, 1946: As a result of two decisions handed down by the Supreme Court in 1944, both upholding the right of Blacks to vote in primary elections, blacks in Mississippi vote for the first time in that state’s Democratic primary.
March 29, 1961: Ratification of the 23rd amendment to the Constitution gave residents of Washington, D.C., right to vote in presidential elections.
May 20, 1993: The “motor-voter” bill was signed by President Bill Clinton, allowing citizens to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license.
August 26: Women’s Equality Day
Formerly known as Woman Suffrage Day, this day marks the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1920), granting women the right to vote. Ratification came in Tennessee, where suffragist (Anitia) Lili Pollitzer, age 25, persuaded Tennessee state legislator Harry T. Burn, age 24, to cast the deciding vote. “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow,” he said, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” The country’s 26 million voting-age women were enfranchised by this change in the Constitution. Longtime suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt summed up her experiences in the battle this way: “Never in the history of politics has there been such a nefarious lobby as labored to block the ratification.” Upon ratification, Catt founded the League of Women Voters, an organization now dedicated to providing impartial, in-depth information about candidates, platforms, and ballot issues.
Election Day Palindrome
Here is an election-day palindrome for your amusement (4 words, 13 letters).
Rise to vote, sir.
(In a palindrome, the phrase reads the same backward as forward.)
We hope you found something interesting on our Election Day page. Now, ever wonder why elections are in the fall? The timing of present-day rituals evolved from our ancient calendars. Read more about Quarter-Days.