Why New Jersey is holding a Wednesday election

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday set an Oct. 16 special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Oct. 16 is a Wednesday. Elections are usually held on a Tuesday. What gives?


(Don Emmert/AFP Getty Images)

The election is happening on a Wednesday because it’s the soonest possible date it could be held under the writ Christie issued. State law holds that the primary be held 70-76 days after the writ Christie issued Tuesday, with a general election to follow 64-70 days after that.

Christie said Tuesday his priority was to elect a senator as promptly as possible.  "We have to move swiftly to fill this seat and ensure that there is both a primary and general election as soon as possible," Christie said.

Thus, a Tuesday, Aug. 13 primary, and exactly 64 days later, a Wednesday, Oct. 16 special general election.

It won't be the first time a state has held a non-Tuesday election. In fact, it's a habit in some places. Hawaii holds its primary elections on Saturday. Louisiana also has a history of holding Saturday elections.

The 2012 presidential nominating calendar featured a handful of non-Tuesday primaries and caucuses. South Carolina, for example, held its primary on a Saturday.

So when did the Tuesday election tradition begin, anyway? The middle of the 19th Century, as NPR and Governing Magazine explain. Voters living in rural areas often had to travel long distances by buggy to cast ballots. Traveling on Sunday was out, because it was meant to be a day of rest. And Wednesday was market day. Tuesday made a lot of sense. Congress agreed, and made it law.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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