Assign to Google Classroom
On Nov. 8, Americans will head to the voting booth. They will cast their ballots for the next president of the United States. As always, this time-honored tradition falls on a Tuesday. But why? It turns out the answer has a lot to do with buggies and farmers markets.
The Founding Fathers met at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, NPR explains. But at the end of the meeting, they still had not agreed on a number of questions about how to run an entire nation. One of those issues involved the timing of federal elections. As a quick fix, they decided to leave it to individual states to set their own voting days. This led to several decades of "electoral chaos," NPR writes. Random elections were held at all different times, all over the country.
In 1845, Congress decided to straighten things out. Monday was out, lawmakers reasoned. That's because people would have to travel to the polls in their buggies on Sunday. Voting on that day wouldn't sit well with church-goers. Wednesday wouldn't work, either. Mid-week usually meant market day for farmers. At the time, most citizens were farmers. Again, Thursday didn't fit the bill because of the buggy-traveling time allocation. It would cut into market day. And Friday? Well, NPR doesn't say. But who wants to deal with such a serious issue at the very end of the week?
So, Tuesday was the day. And that seemed to work great for 19th century voters.
"In the 1840s, elections were a big to-do. There was a lot of hoopla. There were parades," Ritchie says. "Whole families would come on wagons from the farms. People would get dressed up for the occasion."
The America of today looks different. Buggies and markets have long since given way to minivans and supermarkets, NPR concludes. But, Tuesday remains the day we vote.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why aren't most Americans farmers now?
Write your answers in the comments section below