Election Day Historical Facts

Election Day provides citizens the right and responsibility to vote for candidates and issues. While some states allow early voting, in most states Election Day is Nov. 8. We know these things about Election Day, but there are lots of interesting historical facts about elections that are lesser known. Take a look at these historical tidbits from the National Constitution Center to learn more about past election traditions.

  • Elections took place way before the Constitution was ratified. The British began voting for various public offices soon after the colonists landed in Virginia in the 17th century.
  • Drinking was a part of elections. Borrowing from a British custom, liquor was often used to attract voters on Election Day. According to lore, George Washington spent his entire campaign budget of 50 pounds on liquor for the court house lawn on Election Day.
  • Voting traditions were different during colonial times. Colonial voting was often conducted by voice vote, and political parties often printed their own ballots so that people could vote a party ticket. The Australian ballot, or secret ballot, wasn’t used until the 1890s.
  • Congress didn’t set the date of the presidential election (first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) until 1845. Prior to that time, states could set their own dates for federal elections as long as the voting involving the Electoral College was resolved by mid-December. Even today, some states hold voting for non-federal offices on a different day than the federal Election Day.