Election of the President & Vice President:
The Constitution (Article II, Section 1) provides
that "Congress shall determine the Time of choosing the Electors,
and the Day on which they shall give their votes; which Day shall be
the same throughout the United States." In 1792, legislation was
enacted establishing the first Wednesday in December as the day on which
presidential electors were to assemble and vote, and further required
that the States appoint electors within 34 days prior to the date set
for the electors to vote. In 1845, Congress enacted legislation providing
a uniform date for the choice of electors in all states, establishing
"Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November
of the year in which they are to be appointed."
The decision to create a single day for the
selection of Presidential electors was intended, in part, to prevent
election abuses. The reason that November was chosen was that the
United States was largely a rural and agrarian nation. Since the harvesting
of crops was normally completed by this time, farmers were free to
vote. Also, since November is before the onset of winter, traveling
would be easier (particularly in the northern states that experienced
harsh winter weather).
Why Tuesday after the first Monday?
Tuesday was chosen partly because it gave a
full day's travel time between Sunday, which was widely observed by
religious groups as a strict day of rest (except for traveling) and
voting day. Two days were given for travel to give voters the time
to travel by foot or by horse to the nearest polling place, usually
the county's seat.
Finally, the choice of Tuesday after the first
Monday was established to prevent elections from falling on the first
day of the month. The first date of the month was typically reserved
for court business at the county seat and would not make a good day
to hold elections. By making the Tuesday following the first Monday
in November election day, Congress had insured that this would not