Why Is Election Day So Late This Year? The Reason For 2016's Date Goes All The Way Back To 1845
There are a lot of reasons why the 2016 election cycle has been excruciating, but one of the main factors is that it seemingly has lasted forever: While the end is finally nigh, Election Day isn't until Nov. 8. But... why? Why is Election Day so late this year? The universe must be having a heck of a laugh over this, because honestly, it seems kind of like a cruel joke.
It's a common misconception that Election Day in America is the first Tuesday of November. This is because the rule, a result of a law passed by Congress in 1845, states that Election Day is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. A lot of the time, that means that it is, in fact, on the first Tuesday in November. But about 14 percent of the time, this rule also causes Election Day to fall during the second week of November. 2016 — in which Nov. 1 occurs on a Tuesday — falls into that 14 percent. In fact, because Nov. 1 is a Tuesday, Election Day actually falls on the latest date possible this year, as TIME notes. Because of course.
Prior to 1845, the law stated that each state was allowed to conduct their own presidential elections at any point during the last 34 days before the first Wednesday in December, according to Time and Date. That first Wednesday marked the meeting of the Electoral Colleges. November and early December were considered ideal because the harvest was finished, but the worst of winter, which hindered communication and transportation, was yet to come.
But 34 days is, uh, an extremely long election period, even though the only people voting were white dudes. So in 1845, one year into James K. Polk's presidency, Congress decided that Election Day would be confined to one day: Early November, post-harvest and pre-winter, and the Tuesday following the first Monday, which gave more rural voters a full of travel after the Sabbath.
The one-day Election Day rule came into effect in 1848, which saw the election of President Zachary Taylor. Voter turnout was 72.7 percent, down from 1844's 78.9. Now, again, white Christian dudes were participating amidst voting conditions written specifically for white Christian dudes — but to put that voter turnout in perspective, 2012's presidential election saw about 58 percent participation among eligible voters.
Y'all — that is unacceptable. Truly. Just! Please! Vote! Even if these rules are old and meant for religious farmers! I don't care! Vote!
Hopefully you've already registered at this point, so assuming you've done that, here's how to figure out where you should go cast your ballot on Nov. 8. Seriously, you guys. Way too much is riding on this one.
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