Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook: Why vote? Here are 6 reasons. (statesman.com)
In preparation for this topic, I perused the history of elections and voting on History.com. Apparently colonial candidates boozed up voters to, through and after the polls. George Washington is reported to have plied his potential voters with 47 gallons of beer, 35 gallons of wine, 2 gallons of cider, 3.5 pints of brandy and a whopping 70 gallons of rum punch. He won the election by 310 votes.
So who were these voters? Primarily wealthy, white, landholding, Protestant men. However, voting did not start out with the coveted privacy of the ballot deposited in a box, but was an in-person, audible vote. The wealthy voters might have received individual visits from the candidates prior to the election. On election day, supporters in many cities rented out taverns for a boozy pre-vote party. Then everyone would participate in an impromptu parade to the polls. For the less rich, all action was on election day when the candidates were expected to greet all at the polls. Following the vote, additional tavern-parties, complete with booze and food no matter how you voted, would occur. Ah, the good ol’ days.
So how did we come to have nationwide Election Day on a November Tuesday, that fickle month for weather? We go back to 1845 when Congress passed a federal designation for the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election Day across the country. Congress sought to eliminate early voting in some parts of the nation from influencing the later votes in other areas. Why Tuesday and why November? Back in the day, America was primarily an agrarian economy. Crops were planted during spring or late summer, were harvested primarily in or at the end of the summer and all that work afterward continued into late fall.
You had to travel to your county’s seat to cast your vote – think about how big some of Texas’ counties are and your transportation mode was a horse. It could easily take over a day to reach your poll site. Sundays were church days and were not to be encroached upon. Wednesdays were market days – your horse was needed to pull the wagon into town. We are still primarily following the farm culture for the vote although mail-in voting and early voting has increased our bandwidth for casting votes.