Election Day in United States
Election Day in the United States of America is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. It can fall on or between November 2 and November 8. It is the day when popular ballots are held to select public officials. These include national, state and local government representatives at all levels up to the president.
On Election Day, citizens of the United States of America can vote by popular ballot for candidates for public offices at local, state and national levels. In even numbered years, federal elections are always held. In years divisible by four, presidential elections are always held. Elections for local and state officials may be held in odd or even-numbered years, depending on local and state laws.
The way in which people vote, depends on the state in which they live. In Oregon, all votes are cast by post and all votes have to be received at a given time on Election Day. In the state of Washington, nearly all people vote by post and the envelopes containing the voting papers have to be postmarked with the date of Election Day. In other states, people vote at voting stations, where long queues can form.
In 1792, a law was passed allowing each of the states to conduct presidential elections at any point in the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December. This was the date when the meetings of the Electors of the U.S. president and vice-president, known as the Electoral Colleges, were held in each state. A date in November or early December was preferable because the harvest would have been finished, but the most severe winter storms would not have begun.
As long distance communication improved and became quicker with the advent of trains and telegraphs, allowing each state to conduct its elections at any point in a period of more than a month, became outdated. The results of the elections that were announced earliest could influence the outcomes of elections held later in the permitted period.
In 1845 the United States Congress chose a single date for all national elections in all states. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was chosen so that there would never be more than 34 days between Election Day and the first Wednesday in December. Election Day is held on a Tuesday so that voters will not have to vote or travel on Sunday. This was an important consideration at the time when the laws were written and is still so in some Christian communities in the United States.
For federal offices (President, Vice President and United States Congress), Election Day occurs only in even-numbered years. Presidential elections are held every four years, in years divisible by four, in which electors for President and Vice President are chosen according to the method determined by each state. Elections to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are held every two years; all Representatives serve two-year terms and are up for election every two years, while Senators serve six-year terms, staggered so that one-third of Senators are elected in any given general election. Many state and local government offices are also elected on Election Day as a matter of convenience and cost saving, although a handful of states hold elections for state offices (such as governor) during odd-numbered “off years”, or during other even-numbered “midterm years”.
Election Day is a civic holiday in some states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and the territory of Puerto Rico. Some other states require that workers be permitted to take time off from employment without loss of pay. California Elections Code Section 14000 provides that employees otherwise unable to vote must be allowed two hours off with pay, at the beginning or end of a shift. A coincidental federal holiday, Democracy Day, has been unsuccessfully proposed.
In modern times, the United States is no longer primarily an agrarian society, and Tuesday is now normally a work day throughout the country with most voters working on that day. This has led activists to object to Election Day being on a Tuesday on the grounds that it currently decreases voter turnout. They advocate either making Election Day a federal holiday, as in the Democracy Day proposal, or allowing voters to cast their ballots over two or more days. The United Auto Workers union has negotiated making Election Day a holiday for workers of U.S. domestic auto manufacturers. Some employers allow their employees to come in late or leave early on Election Day to allow them an opportunity to get to their precinct and vote. Activists encourage voters to make use of early voting and postal voting facilities when available and convenient.
Most states allow for early voting, allowing voters to cast ballots before the Election Day. Early voting periods vary from 4 to 50 days prior to Election Day. Unconditional early voting in person is allowed in 32 states and in D.C. Also, most states have some kind of absentee ballot system. Unconditional absentee voting by mail is allowed in 27 states and Washington, D.C., and with an excuse in another 21 states. Unconditional permanent absentee voting is allowed in 7 states and in Washington, D.C In Oregon and Washington State all major elections are by postal voting, with ballot papers sent to voters several weeks before Election Day.
Elected offices of municipalities, counties (in most states), and other local entities (such as school boards and other special-purpose districts) have their elections subject to rules of their state, and in some states, they vary according to choices of the jurisdiction in question. For instance, in Connecticut, all towns, cities, and boroughs hold elections in every odd-numbered year, but as of 2004, 16 have them on the first Monday in May, while the other 153 are on Election Day. In Massachusetts, the 50 cities are required to hold their elections on Election Day, but the 301 towns may choose any date, and most have traditionally held their elections in early spring, after the last snowfall. In the area where I live and vote in Virginia, (Alexandria City) this year there are several candidates running for the House of Delegates (Mark Levine, Charnile Herring, Sean Lenehan and Andy Baker) as well of the State Senate George Barker and Joseph Murphy) to represent Alexandria, and a plethora of candidates for the Alexandria City Public School Board to choose from. Alexandria City will also be electing (or re-electing Bill Euile) a Mayor and several members of the City Council. Each candidates platform is so to that person, that one has to go with whom they can totally trust to represent their best interest(s). It can be difficult if you like more than one person, and what they stand for. But ultimately you can choose only one. In different jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia there are local and state wide referendums on the ballot (issues such as gun control, funding matters on transportation, and so on). Some of these referendums are local matters and others are on the state or federal level. Also, in the Alexandria City Public Schools, the students all learn about voting and the democratic process, by getting to vote for their favorite lunch menu item(s). And the overall winner becomes a the next day’s lunch menu.