Why Does The US Vote on The 2nd Tuesday of November? – backstory

Why does the United States vote on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November?  Seems somewhat convoluted, doesn’t it.  And, really, it does it make sense?  Many people simply can’t get to the polls on weekdays.  Why not switch voting to a weekend?

Actually, many people have pushed for a change to weekend voting, but the change has always been opposed, especially by those who feel they benefit by low voter turnout.

Even though America’s voter turnout is among the lowest in mature democracies and more than a quarter of people who do not vote claim they are too busy, efforts to move elections to weekends have failed.

The Tuesday after the first Monday in November was set as presidential election day in 1845. -BBC

Did you ever wonder why voting day is always on a Tuesday…or why we vote in November?

Why November?  Why not Summer or Spring, when the weather is more forgiving?  It’s because back in 1845 when the official voting day was selected, the United States was an agrerian society.   Spring was planting time, and summer was time to tend the crops.  By November the fall harvest was over, therefore November was simply the most convenient month for farmers to be able to travel to the polls.   (Since most people would travel by horseback or wagon, deep winter was definately OUT; November offered relatively mild enough weather to permit travel over unimproved roads.)

Why Tuesday? Since most residents of rural America had to travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people were more than a day’s travel from their polling place, and they couldn’t travel on Sunday due to to the religious prohibition on “working” on Sunday, and nearly manditory church attendence.

Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Lawmakers wanted to prevent election day from falling on the first of November for two reasons. First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote!” – infoplease.com

African Americans officially won the right to vote in 1870, but in practice, literacy tests,Klansmen and poll taxes effectively kept them from voting in any large numbers, especially in the southern states.   President Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights act of 1965 finally allowed African Americans full privleges of their citizenship.

Native Americans were denied the right to vote until 1924.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Women won the national right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.  Yet today several Tea Party members have said that allowing women the right to vote was a mistake.

If you’re a normal 21st Century human being, (and if you don’t follow American politics) you might think I’m kidding about that last statement.  Sadly, no.    Here’s a sample of Tea Party ideas about women voting:

  • Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical…”  ~ Janis Lane, President of the Central Mississippi Tea Party
  • “I think the 19th amendment, (women’s right to vote) while its not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don’t approve of.”  She went on to say that instead of voting, women could “stay home, raise families and tend to domestic duties“.~ Kansas GOP Sen. Kay O’Connor
  • “I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote” … “We should have never turned that over to women… and these women are voting in the wrong people. They are voting in people who are evil, who agree with them, who are going to take us down this pathway of destruction.” – Jesse Lee Peterson, Political Activict & Republican Preacher on Sean Hannity’s Show

But, hey, if you’re a woman, don’t feel singled out.  Reich-wing zealots are also on record as saying that only property owners should be allowed to vote, and that the  poor people should not be allowed to vote.  Minorities have always been targeted;  until 1952, first-generation Japanese Americans could not vote because of the racial restrictions of the 1790 Naturalization Law.

  • In 2004, in the City of Ville Platte, Louisiana, city officials attempted to perform a radical redistricting that would have reduced the number of districts in which the Black community had an opportunity to elect candidates of choice from 4 to 3, by packing Black voters into an overwhelmingly Black district and reducing Black population in a neighboring district to 38%. However, since Louisiana is covered by Section 5 of the VRA, the 2003 redistricting plan had to be submitted to the Department of Justice before it was put into effect. And because the Department concluded that the plan was discriminatory, it could not be implemented.
  • In Texas in 2003, Bexar county officials sought to undermine Latino voting strength by failing to place polling places near those communities during a special election where a Constitutional amendment was on the ballot. Using the special provisions of the VRA, Latino advocates were able to obtain expedited relief from the local district court that prevented the Latino voters from being silenced in the election.
  • As recently as last year, a federal court determined that South Dakota discriminated against Native-American voters by packing them into a single district to remove their ability to elect a representative of their choice to the state legislature.
  • In 2003, Harris County elections officials failed to provide bilingual voting materials required under the VRA in Vietnamese until local advocates and the Department of Justice compelled them do so. A Vietnamese candidate later won a legislative seat there. – CivilRights.org

So, if you’re a US Citizen, get out and vote…and remember how many people have been beaten, arrested, and even killed for the right to vote.

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