Later this year—Tuesday, November 6, 2012, to be exact—millions of Americans will disrupt their daily routines and make their way to local polling locations to cast their votes in the national elections. In a country that ranks among the most productive in the world, holding elections in the middle of a busy and demanding workweek might seem peculiar.

In fact, since 1845 the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November has been congressionally designated as Election Day. The timing was not so peculiar for Americans in the 1840s, when America was largely a farming society. November worked because the harvest was in and the winter weather was not yet so severe to impede travel. Tuesday worked because most people devoted Sunday to worship, and they needed Monday to travel from their rural homes to county seats to cast their votes. A historical practice, developed in an era that was vastly different from our own, still controls voting today.