Election Days

The United States has many election days because there are so many levels of government. Each state has its own elected officials, such as a governor—the chief administrative official—and state legislators, who make the state's laws. In addition, there are elections of mayors and other officials for all cities and smaller communities, and still other elections for county officials. (Counties are subdivisions of each state.)

States set their own election days for state and local officials. City and county elections take place on a variety of dates. Generally, however, state officials are elected on a day that was selected by Congress for national elections in the nation's early years. That day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That rule may seem complicated, but there was a reason for it. Most Americans at that time lived in small towns and in rural areas. Elections had to be held at a time when the weather was still good in northern states and when the harvest was over so farmers wouldn't have to worry too much about their work. It also had to be on a day of the week that was not a religious Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday). The November Tuesday rule was the result.

Presidential Election Day is held every four years—in all years divisible by four. That is the day Americans make their choice for president of the United States. On the same day, voters in all states name their choices for the lower house of Congress, the House of Representatives, and voters in one-third of the states vote for one of two Senators—members of the upper house—that represent each state. Government offices and businesses may give voters several hours off to vote, but Election Day is not a federal holiday.

Because members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and one-third of the 100 members of the Senate is elected every two years for terms lasting six years, congressional elections occur in all states every second year.

Related posts