As we get ready (or as ready as we’ll ever be) for tomorrow’s presidential election — and, thankfully, the end of what’s seemed like the most savage campaign season since the 1800s — you may be sitting there with any number of questions you’re just too afraid to ask. After all, it’s been a while since Civics 101. And by this point, you’re probably just too afraid to ask. So we’re here to help. Please, thank us later, after you post a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker. (If you have more specific inquiries about the electoral college — and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you — you can found our explainer here.)
1. Why is the election held on a Tuesday?
In a word: Farming. Congress decided in 1845 — pre-cars, pre-industry-based-economy — that elections would be held in early November because it was after the fall harvest but before everyone hunkered down against the merciless winds of winter. Tuesday was selected to give the rural populace ample time to get to the polls, which were usually in a centralized location. Mondays were out because churchgoers didn’t want their Sundays messed with, and Wednesdays were typically market day in many towns and therefore not a great day to hold elections.
2. Can the election be rigged?
It’s unlikely. The whole thing is so fragmented between states and the federal government it would take some serious, Illuminati-level conspiracy to rig the election. A fun and terrible thing that could happen, however, could be that hackers mess with individual states’ voting systems; in August, it was revealed that both Arizona and Illinois’ computer systems had come under attack by Russian hackers.
3. What about in-person voting?
Eh. An Arizona State University study that analyzed the presidential elections between 2000 and 2012 found an “infinitesimal” number of fraud cases. Ten cases of in-person voter fraud and 329 cases of absentee ballot fraud … that’s pretty good for three elections with millions of votes cast.
4. What about these third-party candidates I’ve heard so much about?
Well, there’s Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Neither will win. But what they can do is drastically screw things up for the other candidates! That’s what happened in 1992 with Ross Perot and with Ralph Nader in 2000. Both of them were able to siphon off enough votes from the major-party candidates to make an impact on the election.
5. When will the horrifying uncertainty in my mind be quelled?
Oh, weeks. The networks will likely start calling the election as early as possible on the day of, but in actuality, federal law mandates electors convene by the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. (December 19th this year.) Then those votes are counted and sent to Vice President Joe Biden, who presides over a formal count on January 6. Technically, we don’t have a new president until Inauguration Day on January 20.
6. What else is at stake on Nov. 6?
Thirty-four of the seats in the Senate. All 435 of the seats in the House of Representatives. Twelve governorships, 93 state executive officers, about 80 percent of the seats in the 99 state legislative chambers of the U.S. and over 100 issue-specific referendums in 35 states. Fun, right?