By Marty Russell
You may be wondering why the presidential elections are always on the first Tuesday after the first Monday after Halloween. Then again, you may simply be banging your head against a wall crying, “Why can’t we get this over with already?”
Now logic would dictate that national elections immediately follow Halloween because the two have a lot in common. Both involve a lot of scare tactics, both have a lot of tricks disguised as treats, and each is largely about people pretending to be something they’re really not.
But, like most things in this world, logic has nothing to do with it.
You also might conclude that there’s a more cosmic, spiritual significance to the date since the appearance of comets and lights in the sky in the past were said to portend the crowning of a new king, and Election Day just happens to come at the peak of meteor season in the sky. Starting this week and continuing on through the first week of November are the peaks of not one but two major meteor showers.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks Oct. 20-24 but remnants can be seen into December. The shower, which appears to emanate from the constellation Orion, is the product of Earth crossing the path of debris left behind by Comet 1P/Halley and usually results in about 20 shooting stars per hour but in recent years has been producing up to 70 per hour. It is best seen just before dawn.
The Taurid meteor shower, produced by debris from Comet 2P/Encke, runs through October and November and can be seen in the vicinity of Taurus in the evenings.
But if you think the date of presidential elections has any cosmic significance, you’re wrong. The heavens couldn’t care less and might even be showing their displeasure with the whole process. After all, the multi-megaton explosion that wiped out hundreds of square miles in Tunguska in Siberia in 1908 generally is attributed to a meteor from the Taurid meteor storm.
So why, then, are presidential elections always on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November? It’s not in the Constitution. All the Founding Fathers required in the Constitution was that all electors to the Electoral College be chosen on the same date. Back then Congress met from December to March when farmers weren’t working their fields. So in 1792, it was decided that the election should be in November so votes could be counted before the congressional session began.
In 1845, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was agreed upon because people had to get to the polls, so Monday was considered a travel day, Sunday was out of the question being a day of worship for most, and Nov. 1 was no good because it was a Catholic holy day, All Saints Day, the day after Halloween.
Maybe it’s time to change it to something more appropriate, like April 1.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.