This Week in History

Election Day should be moved to Saturday

Meghan Dickson, BU History Club

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This past Tuesday, November 5, was election day. This current election was for local officials for Bloomsburg and hopefully, all or most of you voted. 

In the United States, every presidential election is held on the first Tuesday of November. This is not always convenient for people if their work or school does not close for election day. So why is election day on a Tuesday and not a Saturday, a day that may be easier for people to vote? 

Voting on the first Tuesday of November started in 1845. Before that, voting days were varied among the states but had to be within a 34-day window before the first Wednesday in December. This could mean that people voting in states that were the last to vote would be able to swing an election or knowing of the earlier voter turnout their opinions could be influenced. Because of these reasons, Congress decided to have one official day for all states to vote at the same time. 

The idea of week-day voting was hugely influenced by the farmer voters in the midwest. For them, it would normally take a day to get to their polling place so Congress had to take that into account. The vote could not be on a Sunday since most people went to church. On Wednesday, it was the market day for the farmers, so they could not miss that. Inevitably, Tuesday was the chosen day which would give the farmers enough time to travel and not miss any important activities. 

There is also some significance to November as well regarding the farmer voters. The month of November is in between the harvest and the harsh winter. The farmers would not have to miss harvesting their crops or planting them in the spring. And anyone traveling to a polling place would not have to travel during the winter, something that could have caused major problems. So in 1845 Congress passed a law stating that the first Tuesday of November will be election day. 

Now, most people have to wait in long lines to vote. Everyone is going before or after their work or school on a Tuesday for a reason that seems outdated in 2019. Most Americans are not farmers that must be home on Wednesdays to sell their crops at the market, neither do they have to travel a day or two to get to a polling station. 

I believe that election day should be changed to Saturday. Most Americans are off for work and would be able to make it to a voting place. This could also help fix the problem of low turnout for elections, allowing for more Americans to vote since work or school would not interfere with voting.

Meghan is a sophomore History major and member of the BU History Club.