When Is Super Tuesday and What Is It Exactly?

If you look at our presidential primary election calendar, you’ll notice that several of the Democratic primary contests are being held on Tuesdays. Technically speaking, we vote in presidential general elections on that day of the week in November because of a law that dates back to the 1800s. And the reason that we settled on Tuesday had to do with the fact that at the time, America was mostly a religious and agrarian society.

Sundays were a day of rest and worship and were therefore not good for voting. Wednesdays were often market day — the day for selling crops. And for many farmers, voting in town required travel time, so Mondays and Thursdays would not work. Thus Tuesdays ended up being one of the best and only options.

“Super Tuesday,” however, is a fairly recent political development. Our archives contain a reference to “super-Tuesday” as early as 1976, in a political article that seems to suggest that at least three states voted in the Democratic primary that year on June 8. Later articles refer to a “Super Tuesday” in the Democratic primary of 1980, when on June 3, eight states voted. One article explained its genesis this way:

In 1980, Carter-Mondale campaign strategists, wanting to give President Carter a chance to make a quick rebound should he lose the New Hampshire primary to his Democratic challenger, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, arranged to move up the dates of three Southern state primaries to one week behind the New Hampshire contest. Thus “Super Tuesday” was created in the South, with voters in Georgia, Alabama and Florida expressing their Presidential preference the same day.

But what several articles call the “first” official Super Tuesday came on March 13, 1984, when nine states — Washington, Nevada, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Alabama, Georgia and Florida — American Samoa and Democrats abroad all voted. It was “the largest single harvest of convention delegates of the campaign,” The Times noted, adding that 511 delegates were at stake.

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