Tuesday After the First Monday in November

Ever wonder why our elections are timed this way? It turns out to be an interesting story.

Early in our history, Congress set the date for Electoral College meetings to be held the first Wednesday in December, further requiring the states to choose their electors within the prior 34 days.

It was not until 1845, though, that Congress established a uniform election day, setting it 29 days before the Electoral College meeting. The Electoral College meeting date was later moved to the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. But the Tuesday election date in early November stuck.

But why Tuesday? Why early November? And why not simply the first Tuesday in November?

For much of its history, the US was largely an agrarian country. By early November, the fall harvest was completed and weather was still generally mild enough to allow for travel. After all, voting required travel to the polls, sometimes significant distances.

Sunday travel was out of the question because it would have interfered with worship services. Congress apparently also wanted to prevent election day from falling on the first of November for a couple of reasons. November 1st is All Saints Day, a significant day of obligation for Roman Catholics. And secondly, most merchants did their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Congress may have been worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove to be an undue influence on elections.

What’s clear from our history is that our forebearers went to a great deal of trouble to accommodate and enable voting by all. It’s also clear that citizens had to expend a great deal of time, expense, and energy to vote. We honor our forebearers and their commitment to an open and free society when we vote. Fortunately today, voting requires far less time, expense, and energy. We have no excuse not to vote!

But I’ve heard many express the opinion: “Why vote? My vote doesn’t matter anyway.”

Or better yet,

“I have to vote for the Republican or the Democrat. Otherwise my vote doesn’t count.”

Unfortunately, we seem to be living in an assumed winner-take-all political world. You either win or you lose. But politics is not a game of wins and losses like in sports. Politics is about human interactions. Politics is about how we resolve our myriad differences so that we can live in a mutually-beneficial and hopefully harmonious society. To assume our differences come down to a binary choice is simply wrong.

Think about how many different types of cars you can buy. Think about all the brands of ketchup in the store. Think about the variety of entertainment choices we have. I personally bless the fact that we humans are wonderfully diverse. Beauty, strength, and wisdom come out of that diversity.

We should think of voting as expressing our political opinion, not about who wins or loses the game. Personally, I vote my conscience. By voting I can publicly express my preferences among the many choices available on election day. As his brothers said to Mikey, “try it you’ll like it”. It feels good.

Do your research. I’m certain that once you do, your conscience will lead you to vote for Mark Miller for Texas Railroad Commissioner.

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