In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president on November 4. Four years ago, Trump won against Hillary Clinton on November 8. This year, tens of millions of Americans will come to their polls to elect their president on November 3. 4, 8, 3… The day varies but, for more than a century and a half, one thing has not changed: “Election Day” is held “on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November”.
To get there, we must first go back to the beginnings of the republic at the end of the 18th century. In 1792, a first federal law sets the rules of the game: each state must organize elections in the 34 days preceding the first Wednesday in December. The system has a downside: voters voting in the later states can be influenced by the early results.
To correct the situation, a single day is inscribed in black on white in a law passed by Congress in 1845. After first being applied only to the presidential ballot, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November was also adopted thirty years later for the election of those elected to the House of Representatives and in 1914 for the senators.
In the days of the agrarian republic
But why did you choose Tuesday? To answer it, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the Americans of the mid-19th century. It is out of the question for the ballot to be held at the end of the week in a country where Sunday is the Lord’s day and of rest observed by many Christians.
At this time, it is still time for the agrarian republic dear to Thomas Jefferson. Polling stations are much less numerous than today and for farmers living away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, voting can take a long time. “For Americans who lived in the depths of Pennsylvania, it took two days to get to the polling station in the county seat”, recalls François Coste, professor of American civilization at Toulouse Jean-Jaurès University. .
VIDEO. A “Trump House” in Pennsylvania for supporters of the president-candidate
In addition to not organizing the vote on Sunday, we must also prevent potential voters from being forced to travel on that day. Wednesday is not the best idea either, as it is often market day. With these various constraints in mind, there aren’t many options left on the table.
As for the choice of the month of November, it can also be explained by the predominant place of agriculture at the time. Spring being the season for sowing and summer the season for harvest and harvest, the beginning of November is the ideal period before winter and the cold complicate journeys by horse and carriage on non roads. paved, NPR pointed out in 2016. Specifying that the vote necessarily takes place “the Tuesday after the first Monday in November” also makes it possible to prevent the poll from being held on November 1, All Saints’ Day for Catholics.
A participation not exceeding 60%
175 years after the law was passed, nothing has changed, and this is not without its problems. “Many observers agree that there are many problems in the way American democracy works and one of them is low turnout. The fact that most Americans work on Tuesdays has something to do with it, ”explains François Coste.
Since 1968, the participation rate for each presidential election has not exceeded 60%. It even fell to 49% in 1996. With a rate of 55.7% in 2016, the United States was among 32 of the 35 OECD countries, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center. When asked why they abstained, being “too busy”, whether because of work or school, is a regular feature. the three most regularly advanced reasons.
In response, several states such as Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Louisiana have made “Election Day” a public holiday. In other states, employees have the right to be absent for a few hours to vote without loss of pay. Not to mention advance voting, which is increasingly popular, whether by mail or not. In 2016, 57 million Americans (about 41%) took the lead and this 2020 edition, marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, confirms this trend. A few days before Election Day, according to a study by the US Election Project, more than 80 million voters have already made their choice!
Despite these alternatives, the Why Tuesday association (Why Tuesday), co-founded in 2005 by former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, defends the idea of an election on the weekend. In recent years, elected representatives of Congress have also tried to pass a Weekend Voting Act, which would allow Americans to vote “on Saturday and Sunday after the first Friday in November.”
“Voting on weekends is a proven method to increase participation, defended in a column published by The Hill in May 2018 Brendan Boyle, Pennsylvania Democrat elected to the House of Representatives. “Here in the United States, that would make it possible to draw a direct path to the voting booth and would be beneficial for our democracy and for everyone. I challenge anyone to convince me that such a change is not necessary or should not be made. According to the latest news, however, no vote is expected in Congress on this issue, whether it’s a Tuesday or any other day of the week.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr