A Vibrant Election: Exploring Election Days in Various Countries

A Vibrant Election: Exploring Election Days in Various Countries
Credit: AP/Tatan Syuflana

This year, we are witnessing a wave of democracy that is reverberating in many countries around the world. With the participation of 57 nations, including members of the European Union, this democratic affair will invite the participation of approximately 49% of the world's population and encompass 60% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Beginning with Bangladesh on January 7, seven of the world's ten most populous countries are participating: India, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, and Mexico are the others.

In Southeast Asia in particular, two nations, Indonesia (February 14th) and Cambodia (February 25th), will be celebrating their democracy.

Interestingly, several countries choose to hold their elections on the same day each cycle, a phenomenon that spans different parts of the globe. Here are several countries from different regions that consistently hold elections on the same day.

United States: Tuesday

For several decades, federal elections in the United States have been held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This rule was established in 1845 to establish a consistent election day across the country. The choice of the Tuesday after the first Monday was made to avoid having the election fall on November 1.

Having the election on that date was considered inconvenient for several reasons. One is that some Christians observe All Saints Day on that day. Also, many merchants use that day to close out their books for the previous month.

The early November date was also chosen as an optimal time for elections because the harvest is usually complete and the weather is still relatively mild. On the other hand, Tuesday was chosen because farmers had to travel long distances to reach the polling stations.

Wednesday was not chosen because it was used for market day preparations. Sunday was also not a viable alternative because the majority of the U.S. population is Christian and regards Sunday as a day of rest and worship. If people found it difficult to travel on Sunday or Wednesday, then the general election could not be scheduled for Monday or Thursday. Therefore, Tuesday was considered the best choice.

United Kingdom: Thursday

According to The Guardian, "Until 1918, voting in general elections took place over several days, with different constituencies voting on different days. But in that year the Representation of the People Act 1918 was enacted, which limited voting to one day (excluding Orkney and Shetland until 1929).

The reason for choosing Thursday as the polling day is that Friday is the day voters receive their pay. If they go to the pub, they may be influenced by the interests of Conservative businessmen. On Sunday, on the other hand, they might be influenced by the views of Free Church ministers, who tend to be liberal in their thinking. Thursday was therefore chosen as the polling day most insulated from the influence of publicans and Free Church ministers.

Although this influence is less significant today, the trend of Thursday as the universal polling day continues, as Urban District Councils and Rural District Councils all held elections on Saturday until they were finally abolished by the Local Government Act 1972. Their successors, the District Councils, held elections on Thursdays, and the Parish Councils' polling day was changed from Saturday to Thursday at the same time. Although this influence is not as strong today, the tendency to use Thursday as the polling day persists.

Indonesia: Wednesday

According to the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU), Wednesday was chosen as the polling day to avoid weekends in the hope of increasing voter turnout. This is because when  election day coincides with a national holiday, workers tend to use it as a holiday, which can lead to a high rate of abstention.

This decision was also made to avoid voting on days that are often used for worship. Therefore, the KPU avoids voting on Fridays or Sundays, as both days are considered days of worship for Muslims and Christians.

Australia: Saturday

Australia holds general elections on Saturdays. Scheduling elections on Saturdays allows most workers to participate without having to take time off from work, allowing them to vote without disrupting their work schedules.
Saturday is often considered a day off for many residents, making it easier for voters to get to the polls without rushing and avoiding the stress that often occurs on weekdays.

Saturday voting also provides an opportunity for community involvement and social interaction related to the democratic process. The atmosphere at the polls is often festive, similar to a weekend festival. Everyone is invited, and volunteers often organize barbecues or other activities to enhance the festive atmosphere.

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