What’s the best day to hold an election? There’s more than a horse & buggy to consider.

January 07, 2013 January 7, 2013 in Online Voting, Voting Tips and Best Practices by Shelja Purohit, VP Customer Relations


Knowing when federal elections are held is easy. Not just because of ads and get out the vote calls. Since the 1840s, election-day has been mandated by Congress to be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Why Tuesday? Because it fell between the Sabbath (a day of rest, not travel) and market day (traditionally Wednesday) and took into consideration that people would need to travel long distances to get to the polls – typically traveling by horse and buggy.

But for your organization, what’s the best day to start your elections?  And how long should you let them run?  Turns out Tuesdays aren’t the best day.  Monday’s are.

An analysis of Votenet customer elections identified Monday’s as the most popular day of the week for organizations to kick off their elections.  The next most popular days are Wednesday and Tuesday.  Weekends have the fewest number of elections kicking off.

How long should you keep your election open? Our data shows elections that are open 3 weeks yield the best results in voter turnout (although some of our clients leave their elections open for 45 days or more).  This gives enough time for voters to hold the election but also makes room for a reminder campaign.

As we look at what these findings mean, we identify two best practices to consider as you manage your next election.

Tap into established behaviors.

Monday’s are the start of the workweek.  And the first thing most people do on Monday morning is clear out their inbox and take care of administrative tasks.  An election kicking off on Monday takes advantage of the fact that this “computer time” is going to be there and your members will be able to quickly take care of their votes.

If there is a rhythm to your audience’s behaviors, use that to time the start of your election.  Look at traffic on your website to see what is the busiest day of the week or look at the patterns in the professional lives of your voters to identify the optimal time.

Give a Deadline.

An open-ended election without a clear deadline means there is no emotional scarcity (otherwise known as that “I HAVE to get this done” feeling).  Likewise if a deadline is too short, you escape the attention of the busy professional.  A defined and well-communicated timeframe for your election means your voters know when it is starting and ending so they remember to get their votes in.  It also gives you an opportunity to remind your voters to get their votes in with a reminder campaign and follow-up emails.

We’ve come a long way from considering travel distance and farming patterns for establishing when to hold an election. But there are still basics to consider as you look at timing your next election. So be sure to put some thought into the timing and duration of your election period and you’ll be sure to maximize your turnout and results.