Dates of STATE GENERAL ELECTIONS over time

The table on this page is a "work in progress". Please bear with us as we continue to collect the necessary historical data to add to it as time goes along.

 
 

Nowadays, the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November is nearly universal as the date set for General Elections in the United States of America on both the Federal (where it is required, by law, to be used for elections to both chambers of the Congress of the United States every two years as well as for the Presidential Election [in reality, the "appointment" of Presidential Electors in each State and the District of Columbia] every four years) and State levels (today, only Louisiana does not use this date for its own State General Election and this only in odd-numbered years so that there is no conflict with the aforementioned requirements of Federal Law). In addition: in most States, the same General Election date is also used for elections to County, Township or District and Municipal offices (although some States continue to authorize a different date- often the same date as the State's Primary Elections nominating candidates for State or Federal office- for some, if not all, of these lower-tier elective offices and most States also authorize a different date from the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November for at least some municipal elective offices and/or such things as school district elections)...

but, 'twas not always thus!

Of course, the several States of the American Union have ever retained their own "ancient" (as this goes well back into the Colonial Period of American History) and innate power to, on their own and of their own volition, select the dates of elections for elective offices on the State level as well as for any and all of their own Civil Divisions (Counties, Townships and the like) and Municipalities (all, constitutionally, but creatures of a unitary State imbued- by its own People- with Sovereignty over said Civil Divisions and Municipalities). It is this very power that yet allows, say, at least some municipal and school board elections- in many, if not most, States- on dates other than the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November (and also allows Louisiana to still elect its Governor, its other State elective officials and its own legislature on a different date as well).

Before there ever was that "more perfect Union" brought into being by the United States Constitution crafted at the Federal Convention in Philadelphia during the Summer of 1787, the People of the American colonies- become "free and independent States" in 1776- elected members of their respective assemblies- where not also (after Independence, that is) their State's executive officer(s)- at various and sundry times of the year, which varied from State to State. Most of New England, as well as New York, did so in the Spring (said elections more usually coinciding with Town Meeting therein); the Mid-Atlantic States and the upper South, on the other hand, tended to prefer late Summer into early Fall (only lower Southern South Carolina and Georgia, perhaps as a result of being in the warmest climes among the 'Original 13', held their elections in very late November or earliest December).

The dates of elections on the State and local level came up- albeit quite indirectly (as well as briefly)- during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia once its Committee on Detail had (on 6 August 1787) reported out to the full Convention, among many other things, the provision in the United States Constitution that would become the core of that document's Article I, Section 4, clause 2 where it states that the annual meeting of Congress shall be on the first Monday in December. Many of the delegates to the Convention objected to any specific date for Congress's convening being set at all (it was thought, by these, that the concomitant provision requiring Congress to assemble at least once in every Year was in itself quite sufficient), while delegate Gouverneur Morris specifically suggested that May, rather than December, be the time for the annual convening of Congress.

To this last, several members of the Committee on Detail- come the next day, 7 August- replied that Winter was much more conducive a season for political business (since most members of Congress of that era would, presumably, be sent by agrarian precincts, having Congress meeting throughout each Summer would, as delegate Oliver Ellsworth explained, interfere much too much with each Congressman's "private business" [meanwhile, it was thought that whenever Congress met mattered rather little to the year-round urbanized, seaboard merchant or shipper elected to serve therein who would be so inconvenienced in any event]). Delegate Edmund Randolph even went so far as to claim to have examined at least most of the State Constitutions then in force and declared that Congress convening in early December was most convenient when it came to the dates of elections in each State (given a range of such General Election dates from March/April to October each year or two in the majority of States, Randolph was- if only for the most part- correct in this assumption [the two States most inconvenienced in this regard- again, Georgia and South Carolina- would, in fact, end up moving their own elections up into October within a year or two of the meeting of the First Congress under the new Federal Constitution]): however, it was also Randolph who then moved that what would become the phrase unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day in that same clause be added, thereby giving Congress itself power to change the date of its own annual convening, if necessary (as he himself put it, the clause as it would now read [Randolph's motion carried] would better "render our innovations as little incommodious as possible").

In any event, it was clear at the time the new Federal Constitution was drafted and later ratified that each State would almost certainly elect its own members of the new U.S. House of Representatives at the same time it held its own General Elections for its other elective offices on the State and local level (elections which would also, rather obviously, affect when a newly elected State legislature would next be able to meet in order to also choose the State's United States Senators) and this, indeed, remained the case throughout the first several decades of the existence of the United States of America.

The first appearance of that now-ubiquitous Tuesday next after the first Monday in November as "Election Day" is from back in the mid-1840s: by the time of the 1844 Presidential Election (the one that elected James Knox Polk of Tennessee to the White House), all but one of the then-States of the Union "appointed" Presidential Electors by Popular Vote (the progress of the transition to popular "election" of the President and Vice-President of the United States can be found here, by the way).

Through 1844, there was a statutory "window" of little more than a month in the Fall during which States could so "appoint" their respective Presidential Electors but, in that same year, a new and transformative communications technology was publicly demonstrated- this being the telegraph (for if a State voted for President a few weeks before another prior to the advent of such long-distance instantaneous communication, the later-voting State would likely not yet know the details of how the earlier State had already voted; with the telegraph, however, the returns from a national election were now in danger of being skewed unless all States in the Union voted for President [again, "appointed" their respective Presidential Electors by- except in South Carolina until 1868- popular vote] on the very same day). To deal with this new reality, Congress passed a new statute (5 Stat. 721) mandating that the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November be the date on which Presidential Electors must be appointed throughout the Nation: signed into law by outgoing President John Tyler on 23 January 1845, this same statute controls the dates, every four years, of Presidential Elections to this very day.

At around- or shortly after- this same time, quite a few already existing States were in the process of drafting new State Constitutions and- statewide elections being generally expensive (thus, holding separate elections for Federal and State office on two different dates was potentially costly re: the public treasury)- many of these States would soon come to adopt the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November as the date for their own State General Election (in addition, as new States came into the Union after the 1840s, most of these too would adopt this date as that for their own General Election). But there were still a number of "holdouts" amongst the several States which continued to elect their own Governor and other State elective officers, State legislators- and even Congressmen (members of the U.S. House of Representatives, that is [United States Senators still being chosen by State legislatures at the time])- on dates other than the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November.

Things began to change in the 1870s: when Congress, by statute, officially set the allocation of members of the U.S. House of Representatives to each State based on the results of the 1870 Census, it included- in that same statute (17 Stat. 28, adopted 2 February 1872)- a provision that the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every even-numbered year be set as the day for the election... of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress. No more, or so it was intended by Congress, would States be permitted to choose their own Congressmen every two years on a date other than that, by then, already long-established for the "appointing" of Presidential Electors every four years.

There was a nagging constitutional problem, however: while many, if not most, State Constitutions of the mid-to-late 19th Century included a provision re: the date of their own General Elections to the effect that "the Legislature may by law fix a different day" for such elections from that otherwise constitutionally mandated (thus, in those States which had just such a provision- or something similar, such as the State's own elections being held on the constitutional date "or on such days as now are or hereafter may be provided by law"- it was a relatively simple matter for the State's own legislature, by mere statute, to change the date of its own elections to conform to the new Federally-mandated one), quite a few States had no such provision in their own Constitutions (in which case, unless such a State amended its own Constitution, it would have no choice but to continue to elect its Congressmen on a date other than the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November if it wished to avoid incurring the extra expense of a second statewide election [and there was no way, constitutionally, for the Federal Government to force any State of the Union to do just that!]).

An immediate solution was to treat 17 Stat. 28 as but a temporary measure (as it was part and parcel of an Apportionment Act which, theoretically, applied only to those Congressmen actually elected under it [that is: from 1872 through 1880, after which yet another decennial census would itself necessitate a brand new such Apportionment Act]) with Congress more or less "looking the other way" as a number of States continued to elect their own Congressmen (some in odd-numbered, instead of even-numbered, years: a long-standing practice up to that time) on those dates of election- other than the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November- mandated by their own Constitutions. Meanwhile, Congress itself passed a new permanent statute- 18 Stat. 400, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on 3 March 1875, the final day the Congress that had enacted it was still in session- which, while reiterating the preferred date for Congressional Elections being the same Tuesday next after the first Monday in November used for Presidential Elections, also specifically exempted any State beholden to its own Constitution for its General Election dates from so complying (a quid pro quo therein, however, was that those States still electing their Congressmen in odd-numbered years [on grounds that said Congressmen-elect could still get themselves to Washington, D.C. by the time a new Congress itself first convened on the first Monday in December of that same odd-numbered year] would themselves at least phase out that practice! A number of States ended up, so soon therafter, altering their own State Constitutions in any event [to the point where- most notably, perhaps, in California- the very time of State elections themselves was changed from odd-numbered to even-numbered years] in order to so comply).

It would be this very exemption from 18 Stat. 400, by the way, that would allow Maine, for one, to continue to elect its own Congressmen and U.S. Senators (Senators elected by popular vote since 1914, thanks to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) in early mid-September through 1958! (Not until 1960 did Maine constitutionally move its own State Elections to the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, only after which it- finally- would choose its Congressmen and Senators on the same day as everyone else in the USofA).

What appears in the table below (in the column headed Earlier dates of STATE GENERAL ELECTIONs are, in at least most cases, the constitutional date(s) for General Elections in each State of the American Union over the course of time along with the year in which a given State switched over to General Elections on the now-nearly universal Tuesday next after the first Monday in November. Please note, again, that what is presented hereon is but the election date found in each State's own Constitution which, in many cases (especially during much of the 19th Century), functioned as but a "default" date that the State's own legislature might have been permitted to alter by mere statute (as already discussed above): thus, ever keep in mind that it is, in such cases, quite possible that a date other than that indicated in the table below was actually used for a particular State's General Election in any given year during just such a period outlined in this table (for instance, New Jersey was already holding its elections on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November under a mere statute even before its own Constitution was specifically amended to reflect this, beginning in 1876).

It should also be noted that two other factors must be reckoned with when it comes to elections held during the earliest years- and even decades- of the American Republic: first, that these early elections were more often conducted viva voce (that is: the voter had to openly declare, in public, his choices from among candidates for elective office [and, even where election was by ballot back then, it was not at all a secret ballot marked by the voter while inside a private "voting booth": thus, it was often quite common for others to be able to discern for whom a voter had actually voted (especially where differently colored "ticket"s [from where the usual term for a Party slate of candidates actually comes]- to be placed inside the ballot box by a voter- were handed out by Party operatives standing near the polling place) and, second, that such elections also more usually took place (outside of those States- such as those in New England, along with New York and [later] on into what is now the upper Midwest- in which Town Meeting would coincide with General Elections [and, by the way, such a Town Meeting itself utilized openly expressed viva voce voting, where not also "a show of hands", as a matter of course]) only at one's own county seat.

This last, particularly in those counties of rather large geographic area (which most counties, in fact, tended to be in the earliest years and decades of the Republic), meant much time-consuming (where not also, perhaps, rather perilous) travel on horseback or in a horse-drawn vehicle over the primitive roads of the era and, in order to accommodate such voters, elections would be held over the course of two- or, perhaps, even more- days! The dates in the table below (particularly going into, and through, the early 19th Century) are, therefore, more often those on which a multi-day General Election either began or (far less common) ended. (Indeed, the 1845 Federal law mandating the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November as the date for Presidential Elections from then on would have more than little influence on both the conducting of elections on a single day as well as allowing voters to cast their vote more locally- that is, closer to their own residences: the very notion of an "election precinct" smaller than one's own Civil Division/Municipality being the principal unit of vote-counting and tabulation).

One final point involves the oft-seen vestiges of earlier General Election dates in at least some States to this very day: for example, Tennessee nowadays holds its State Primaries- as well as elections for local office in that State- on the first Thursday in August; this date happens to also be (as can be seen in the table below) the same date the Volunteer State once used for its statewide General Elections. Likewise, one can fairly wonder if the longtime use of a date in earliest August for State Primaries in Missouri might well reflect an earlier era in that State's own history when it once used a very similar date for its General Elections.


 

A few links to other HISTORICAL DATA on this website at least somewhat related to that within the table below:


 
STATE Tuesday immediately after
1st Monday in NOVEMBER
from the following year on
Earlier dates of STATE
GENERAL ELECTIONs
ALABAMA 1902 1819 only: 3rd Mon. in SEP
1821- 1st Mon. in AUG- 1863
1865 only: 1st Mon. in NOV
1867 only: 1st Mon. in AUG
1870- Tue. after 1st Mon. in NOV -1874
1876- 1st Mon. in AUG -1900
ARIZONA 1912 1911 only: 2nd Tue. in DEC
ARKANSAS   1836 only: 1st Mon. in AUG
1838- 1st Mon. in OCT- 1862
1864 only: 2nd Mon. in MAR
1866 only: 1st Mon. in AUG
1868 only: Fri. 13 MAR
1870- Tue. after 1st Mon. in NOV -1872
1874 only: 2nd Tue. in OCT
1876- 1st Mon. in SEP
CALIFORNIA 1880 1849 only: Tue. 13 NOV
1850- Tue. after 1st Mon. in NOV -1860
1861- 1st Wed. in SEP -1879
COLORADO 1880 1876- 1st Tue. in OCT -1878
CONNECTICUT 1876 1st Mon. in APR -1876
DELAWARE 1856 1776 only: Mon. 21 OCT
1777- 1 OCT -1791
1792- 1st Tue. in OCT -1831
1832- 2nd Tue. in NOV -1854
FLORIDA 1870 1843- 1st Mon. in OCT -1863
1865 only: Wed. 29 NOV
1867 only: 1st Mon. in OCT
1868 only: 1st Mon. in MAY
GEORGIA   1777- 1st Tue. in DEC -1788
1789- 1st Mon. in OCT -1794
1795- 1st Mon. in NOV -1842
1825- 1st Mon. in OCT -1863
[used for election of Governor only to 1841]
1865 only: Wed. 15 NOV
1867 only: 1st Wed. in OCT
1870- Tues. after 1st Mon. in NOV -1876
1877 only: 1st Wed. in DEC
1880- 1st Wed. in OCT
IDAHO 1889 ---
ILLINOIS 1848 1818 only: 3rd Thu. in SEP
1820- 1st Mon. in AUG -1846
INDIANA 1882 1816- 1st Mon. in AUG -1851
1852- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1880
IOWA 1885 1846- 1st Mon. in AUG -1856
1857- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1883
KANSAS 1860 1859 only: 1st Tue. in DEC
KENTUCKY 1893 1792- 1st Tue. in MAY -1799
1800- 1st Mon. in AUG -1891
LOUISIANA   1814- 1st Mon. in JUL -1844
1846 only: 3rd Mon. in JAN
1847- 1st Mon. in NOV -1851
1852 only: 4th Mon. in DEC -1851
1853- 1st Mon. in NOV -186x
1868 only: Fri. 17 APR -1851
1870- Tues. after 1st Mon. in NOV -1878
1879 only: 1st Tue. in DEC
1882- Tues. after 3rd Mon. in APR -1960
1964 only: Tues. 3 MAR
1968- Tues. after last Mon. in JAN -1972
MAINE 1960 1820 only: 1st Mon. in APR
1821- 2nd Mon. in SEP -1958
MARYLAND 1864 1776- 1st Mon. in SEP
[used for choice of Electors for State Senate] &
1st Mon. in OCT
[used for election of House of Delegates] -1836
1838- 1st Wed. in OCT -1850
1851- 1st Wed. in NOV -1863
MASSACHUSETTS 1855 1780- 1st Mon. in APR
[used for election of Governor & State Senate] &
10 days before last Wed. in MAY
[used for election of State House of Representatives] -1831
1831- 2nd Mon. in NOV -1854
MICHIGAN 1852 1835 only: 1st Mon. in OCT
1837- 1st Mon. in NOV -1843
1845- 1st Tue. in NOV -1851
MINNESOTA 1859 1857 only: 2nd Tue. in OCT
MISSISSIPPI 1869 1817- 1st Mon. in AUG -1831
1832 only: 1st Mon. in DEC
1833- 1st Mon. in NOV -1855
1857- 1st Mon. in OCT -1867
MISSOURI 1866 1820 only: 4th Mon. in AUG
1822- 1st Mon. in AUG -1864
MONTANA 1890 1889 only: 1st Tue. in OCT
NEBRASKA 1876 1866 only: Sat. 2 JUN
1867- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1875
NEVADA 1864 ---
NEW HAMPSHIRE 1878 2nd Tue. in MAR -1878
NEW JERSEY 1876 1776 only: 2nd Tue. in AUG
1777- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1875
NEW MEXICO 1911 ---
NEW YORK 1847 1822- 1st Mon. in NOV -1846
NORTH CAROLINA    
NORTH DAKOTA 1890 1889 only: Tue. 1 OCT
OHIO 1887 1803 only: 2nd Tue. in JAN
1805- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1885
OKLAHOMA 1908 1907 only: 3rd Tue. in SEP
OREGON 1910 1858- 1st Mon. in JUN -1908
PENNSYLVANIA 1874 2nd Tue. in OCT -1873
RHODE ISLAND 1901 1st Wed. in APR -1900
SOUTH CAROLINA 1874 1776 only: last Mon. in OCT
1778- last Mon. in NOV- 1789
1790- 2nd Mon. in OCT -1864
1865- 3rd Wed. in OCT -1867
1868 only: Tue. 14 APR
1870- 3rd Wed. in OCT -1872
SOUTH DAKOTA 1890 1889 only: Tue. 1 OCT
TENNESSEE 1872 1796 only: 2nd Thu. in MAR
1797- 1st Thu. in AUG -1869
1870 only: 2nd Tue. in NOV
TEXAS   1845 only: 3rd Mon. in DEC
1847- 1st Mon. in NOV -186x
1869 only: 1st Mon. in JUL
UTAH 1895 ---
VERMONT 1914 1st Tue. in SEP -1912
VIRGINIA 1871 1864- 4th Thu. in MAY -1868
1869 only: Tue. 6 JUL
WASHINGTON 1890 1889 only: 1st Tue. in OCT
WEST VIRGINIA 1884 1862- 4th Thu. in OCT -1870
1872- 2nd Tue. in OCT -1882
WISCONSIN 1849 1848 only: 2nd Mon. in MAY
WYOMING 1889 ---
STATE Tuesday immediately after
1st Monday in NOVEMBER
from the preceding year on
Earlier dates of STATE
GENERAL ELECTIONs