Election Day (United States): Wikis


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Election Day
Type Day for the election of public officials in the United States
Date The Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
2009 date November 3 (Details)
2010 date November 2 (Details)
2011 date November 8 (Details)

Election Day in the United States is the day set by law for the election of public officials.

For federal offices (United States Congress and President and Vice President), it occurs on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November in even-numbered years; the earliest possible date is November 2 and the latest November 8. Presidential elections are held every four years (Electors for President and Vice President are also chosen according to the method determined by each state), while elections to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are held every two years. (All Representatives serve two-year terms and are up for election every two years, while Senators serve six-year terms, staggered so that one-third of Senators are elected in any given general election). General elections in which presidential candidates are not on the ballot are referred to as midterm elections. Terms for those elected begin in January the following year; the President and Vice President are inaugurated ("sworn in") on Inauguration Day, usually January 20.

Many state and local government offices are also elected on Election Day as a matter of convenience and cost saving, although a handful of states hold elections for state offices (such as governor) during odd-numbered "off years."

Congress has mandated a uniform date for presidential (3 U.S.C. § 1) and congressional (2 U.S.C. § 1 and 2 U.S.C. § 7) elections, though early voting is nonetheless authorized in many states. In Oregon, where all elections are vote-by-mail, all ballots must be received by a set time on Election Day, as is common with absentee ballots in most states (except overseas military ballots which receive more time by federal law). In the state of Washington, where most counties are vote-by-mail (and in the others most votes are cast by mail as permanent absentee ballots), ballots need only be postmarked by Election Day.

Election Day is a civic holiday in some states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. Some other states require that workers be permitted to take time off from employment without loss of pay. California Elections Code Section 14000 provides that employees otherwise unable to vote must be allowed two hours off with pay, at the beginning or end of a shift.



By federal law since 1792, the U.S. Congress permitted the states to conduct their presidential elections (or otherwise to choose their Electors) any time in a 34-day period[1] before the first Wednesday of December, which was the day set for the meeting of the Electors of the U.S. president and vice-president (the Electoral College), in their respective states.[2] An election date in November was seen as useful because the harvest would have been completed (important in an agrarian society) and the winter storms would not yet have begun in earnest (a plus in the days before paved roads and snowplows). However, in this arrangement the states that voted later could be influenced by a candidate's victories in the states that voted earlier, a problem later exacerbated by improved communications via train and telegraph. In close elections, the states that voted last might well determine the outcome.[3]

A uniform date for choosing presidential Electors was instituted by the Congress in 1845.[4] Many theories have been advanced as to why the Congress settled on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.[5] The actual reasons, as shown in records of Congressional debate on the bill in December 1844, were fairly prosaic. The bill initially set the national day for choosing presidential Electors on "the first Tuesday in November," in years divisible by four (1848, 1852, etc.). But it was pointed out that in some years the period between the first Tuesday in November and the first Wednesday in December (when the Electoral College met) would be more than 34 days, in violation of the existing Electoral College law. So, the bill was amended to move the national date for choosing presidential Electors forward to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a date scheme already used in the state of New York.[6]

In 1845, the United States was largely an agrarian society. Farmers often needed a full day to travel by horse-drawn vehicles to the county seat to vote. Tuesday was established as election day because it did not interfere with the Biblical Sabbath or with market day, which was on Wednesday in many towns.[7]


There are tens of thousands of voting precincts in the United States, each of which must be supplied and staffed with election judges on Election Day, usually a workday in most of the country.


Some activists oppose this date on the grounds that it decreases voter turnout because most citizens work on Tuesdays, and advocate making election day a federal holiday or allowing voters to cast their ballots over two or more days. The United Auto Workers union has negotiated making Election Day a holiday for its workers at the U.S. domestic auto manufacturers.

Many states have implemented early voting, which allows the voters to cast ballots, in many cases up to a month early. Also, all states have some kind of absentee ballot system. The state of Oregon, for example, performs all major elections through Postal voting that are sent to voters several weeks before Election Day. Some companies will let their employees come in late or leave early on Election Day to allow them an opportunity to get to their precinct and vote.

Local elections

Elected offices of municipalities, counties (in most states), and other local entities (such as school boards and other special-purpose districts) have their elections subject to rules of their state, and in some states, they vary according to choices of the jurisdiction in question. For instance, in Connecticut, all towns, cities, and boroughs hold elections in every odd-numbered year, but as of 2004, 16 have them on the first Monday in May, while the other 153 are on Election Day. In Massachusetts, the 50 cities are required to hold their elections on Election Day, but the 301 towns may choose any date, and most have traditionally held their elections in early spring, after the last snowfall.


  Year   Day Details Type
2000 November 7 United States elections, 2000 Presidential
2001 November 6 United States elections, 2001 Off-year
2002 November 5 United States elections, 2002 Midterm
2003 November 4 United States elections, 2003 Off-year
2004 November 2 United States elections, 2004 Presidential
2005 November 8 United States elections, 2005 Off-year
2006 November 7 United States elections, 2006 Midterm
2007 November 6 United States elections, 2007 Off-year
2008 November 4 United States elections, 2008 Presidential
2009 November 3 United States elections, 2009 Off-year
2010 November 2 United States elections, 2010 Midterm
2011 November 8 United States elections, 2011 Off-year
2012 November 6 United States elections, 2012 Presidential

See also


  1. ^ The bill originally specified a 30-day period for the states to choose their Electors. Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 2nd Congress, 1st Session, p. 278.
  2. ^ Statutes at Large, 2nd Congress, 1st Session, p. 239.
  3. ^ William C. Kimberling, The Electoral College, Federal Election Commission, 1992, pp. 6-7
  4. ^ Statutes at Large, 28th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 721.
  5. ^ The theories include that it was placed to avoid the Catholic All Saints Day, (November 1), a holy day of obligation. See InfoPlease.com and U.S. Election Assistance Commission
  6. ^ Congressional Globe, House of Representatives, 28th Congress, 2nd Session, pp. 14-15.
  7. ^ "Officials face Election Day stumper, with possible payoff online". Seattle Times. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003332210_tuesday31.html. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 

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