Election Day is almost here, and while I have a policy of discussing politics only with my husband (who is contractually obligated to love me no matter what), I love elections and I am fascinated by the electoral process. I’ve voted in every primary, mid-term, and presidential election since I was old enough to vote. Remember how Brian in The Breakfast Club had a fake I.D. so he could vote? Yeah, I was that nerd. And I still am.
Arguing about candidates and policies isn’t my thing, but I did want to share with you five fun facts about Election Day. That way, when you’re sporting your “I Voted!” sticker on November 6th, you’ll know the real deal about this important day.
1. Why a Tuesday in November? Thank the Farmers. When a uniform national date for elections was established by Congress back in 1845, farming determined the schedule for many things, elections included. Many farmers had to travel a long distance to get to their county seat to vote, so Election Day was set as a Tuesday as not to interfere with Sabbath observations. Farmers could travel all day Monday, and arrive to vote on Tuesday. It is also said that the selection of “the Tuesday after the first Monday in November” was chosen so it would not conflict with those celebrating All Saints Day on November 1st.
2. Don’t Drink and Vote. Many states have laws regarding alcohol sales and Election Day. In some states, like Alaska and Massachusetts, alcohol cannot be sold until after the polls close. In other states, like West Virginia, alcohol sales are completely prohibited. My own state of Indiana only recently lifted a law regarding alcohol sales on Election Day that had been in place since the Prohibition era. If all those attack ads have driven you to drink…you’ll have to do it at home. And you might want to take a taxi to your polling location.
3. You Can Totally Mail it in. You can vote by an absentee ballot in all 50 states, and military personnel serving overseas receive additional time to mail their ballots. All voting in Oregon is done by mail, and ballots must be received by Election Day in order to be counted. In the state of Washington, your ballot only needs to be postmarked by Election Day to be counted. Many states have also enacted early voting as well, so you don’t have to wait in the long lines on Election Day. The idea of voting without leaving my recliner is pretty appealing to me, but I get irrationally excited about going to vote and getting my sticker every year. I think I’d miss “real” voting.
4. Holiday! Celebrate! In several states, Election Day is a civic holiday. In others, employees must be allowed to take time to vote without loss of pay. California law states that those who wouldn’t be able to vote due to their work schedule be allowed two hours to do so, either at the beginning or end of their scheduled shift. My home state of Indiana apparently enjoys seeing me rush across town on my lunch hour to vote and get back to work without penalty. There are many activists who oppose our current system, and believe that making Election Day a federal holiday would increase voter turnout. The United Auto Workers union has even negotiated Election Day as a holiday for its members working for automotive manufacturers. I’ll be voting regardless, but it would be nice to have the whole day to do so.
5. A Whole Lot of People Still Don’t Vote. According to the United States Census Bureau, only 64 percent of eligible voters voted in the last presidential election, held in 2008. The same voter turnout was recorded in 2004. Young people (ages 18-24) showed the largest increase of voters in 2008, but they were still the age group with the lowest turnout, at only 49 percent. The demographic with the largest turnout? Voters over the age of 65, with a turnout of 70 percent. Women had a higher voting rate than men in 2008, and the highest voter turnout (75 percent) came from Minnesota and the District of Columbia. As a total election nerd, it used to blow my mind that people wouldn’t vote. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to understand why some people choose to abstain from the process. I won’t say that I agree with it, but I definitely understand why some people are turned off by the election (she said as she pulled 17 political attack ads out of her mailbox).
Will you be voting on November 6th? Did you vote early or mail in your ballot? Do you get as excited about your “I Voted!” sticker as I do? Let me know in the comments.