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Why do we always vote in general elections on a Thursday?

Since 1931, every general election has been held on a Thursday – but this hasn't always been the case.

Until 1918, polling could take place over several days with there also having been examples of voting taking place on different days in different constituencies.

Given that there is no official reason for why Thursdays became the preferred day for election polling, The Nine looked into the social and cultural factors that might be behind the decision.

As well as general elections, by-elections have by in large been held on Thursdays since 1965. One notable exception to this was when the Scottish town of Hamilton held a by-election on a Wednesday so as not to interfere with the kick off of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina the next day.

The nation's love for the beautiful game is well-known, but not enough to stop general elections from being on a Thursday. But is the reason for polling day being on a Thursday due to another of the nation's favourite pastimes – a trip to the pub?

Some people believe that Fridays were seen as being an unsuitable day for voting due to it being payday, with people potentially too busy doing fun things such as socialising or visiting the pub to go and vote.

As well as Fridays, Sundays were not seen as a viable option due to the fear that churchgoers might be swayed by what they heard from the pulpit.

By choosing a midweek day, voters would be away from the influence of the pub or church. And with Thursday being a traditional market day, it was seen as being suitable due to people being able to pop in to their local polling station on the way into town.

The idea of weekend voting has previously been criticised due to the cost of overtime for election staff, but some now see it as a viable option.

Professor Ailsa Henderson from the University of Edinburgh thinks a weekend vote would appeal to a lot of people.

“Allowing it on more than one day – where one is a weekday and one is on the weekend – you’ll probably maximise your turnout.”

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