Election Day typically refers to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the United States, although there are also many other days on which elections are held throughout the year, as in holding "primaries" to determine the nominees of political parties who then compete in the general election in November.
The first Tuesday following the first Monday in November was designated by Congress in 1845.
Election Day in 2012 is on November 6. Increasingly Americans vote early, so much so that most may actually vote in the weeks prior to Election Day. In the 2012 general election, more than 30 million people voted before Election Day. Two states, Oregon and Washington vote by mail, with Election Day representing the cut-off date for receiving ballots.
In years divisible by four, Americans select the president for the next four years on Election Day, and also select one-third of the U.S. Senate, all of the members of the House of Representatives, and decide who will serve in many other offices.
In off-numbered years, Americans residing in New Jersey and Virginia select state office-holders, and also vote on initiatives or referenda. Governorships are selected in those two states in the year immediately following a presidential election.
Election Day is a state holiday in some states. Some states or municipalities schedule their local elections on Election Day, while other jurisdictions chose to hold local elections on different days to avoid the high voter turnout from a Presidential election having an influence on the local election.