It’s really tough. They are the longest hours of your life. You are so tired. You just want the goddamned thing over. The most grueling campaign was 1960 because of the mistake I made with the 50-state strategy…In ‘68, I just drove around on Election Day. The day is the worst because there isn’t a goddamn thing you can do. I watched people drive by, and I thought, ‘How many of these people did I reach?’ You really wonder because inside you are paralyzed with worry. You want to think that all of the effort was worth something to somebody.
Richard Nixon, to Monica Crowley, on what goes through a Presidential candidate’s mind on Election Day, October 30, 1992
Wait a second…where’s the bouncer? There’s no Canadians allowed here. (Before a bunch of people from Saskatchewan announce that they are unfollowing me, I’m kidding.)
Honestly, Election Day is the first Tuesday in November for most positions because it makes sense financially. I believe that Presidential and Congressional elections are the only ones actually mandated by law to take place on the first Tuesday in November, but for state-level positions and local-level positions it just makes sense to hold elections on the same day because elections are expensive events to have. Plus, ideally, it would be awesome to have as many voters get out to the polls as possible, so it’s less confusing to have all elections take place on the same day every year.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t elections that take place on other dates. Even if you take away primary elections, which normally take place early in the year of the general election (and those primary election dates differ from state-to-state), state and local elections can also be held at different times of year. It’s up to the state or local municipality that has jurisdiction over the election. (And that’s not even taken into consideration early voting or absentee balloting, which also differs throughout the country depending on your location.)
As for the ballots, well, that can be confusing, too. There is no uniform ballot for federal, state, or local elections. That’s usually different from county-to-county, depending on the state. Not only that, but the means for registering differs from state-to-state. And the actual WAY that you vote is different from one locality to another. In California, where I voted for 12 years, there are counties that have computer stations to fill out ballots, punch cards, manual ballots where you fill in a bubble like you’re taking a test, and other types of voting equipment. It all depends where you live.
You want to know what a crazy Election Day was? In 2003, when I lived in California, there was an election to decide whether to recall Governor Gray Davis — the election that resulted in Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming Governor. So, the first decision on the ballot was to vote “Yes” or “No” on recalling Governor Davis (I voted “No”). The second decision was to vote for a candidate for Governor to replace Governor Davis if the recall succeeded. Now, even if you voted “No” to recall Davis, you could still choose a potential successor. Because the recall was a goddamn circus there were 135 candidates for Governor to choose from — all on one ballot. That’s right…ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE candidates. Take that, Canada.
I’m pretty sure that I don’t remember what it’s like to not live in the midst of an all-encompassing political campaign. Then again, considering how campaigns seem to begin earlier and earlier in 21st Century American politics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the midterm cycle kicks off this afternoon.
(P.S.: I better not see stories about potential 2016 Presidential candidates until AT LEAST Inauguration Day. In a perfect world, we’d be safe from starting that discussion until late-2014.)