Vote on Thursdays or Sundays?

Voter le jeudi ou le dimanche ?

Cultural Fact!

Whatever the elections: departmental, regional, legislative, European, or presidential, voters are called to the polls on the 7th day of the week!

7th day

Why do we vote on Sunday in France and on Thursday in England?

The requirement to hold elections on a Sunday is laid down in the Electoral Code. 

The main reason is that, as voting is not compulsory in France, Sundays were chosen to make it easier for citizens. It is a non-working day for the majority of citizens, who can thus exercise their civic rights without infringing on their work time.

Bureau de vote = polling station

It is also more convenient, both in terms of venues (many polling stations are located in schools) and in terms of volunteers  to ensure the smooth running of the voting operation.

In 2003 the Electoral Code was modified. It was decided that voters in overseas French territories (with the exception of Reunion Island and Mayotte) would vote on Saturdays for the presidential election.


Since before the change, because of the time difference, overseas voters finished voting when the first estimates of the results were already known in metropolitan France.

Not convenient at all isn’t it?!

This led to absurd situations: with a 12-hour time difference from metropolitan France, the Tahitian polling stations opened at the same time as the result was declared in metropolitan France. Because when it is 8 o’clock in Tahiti, it is 8 o’clock in Paris.

From then, the mention of Sunday no longer appears in the Electoral Code. It is only specified that the second round takes place “fourteen days after the first”.

Europeans are also voting on Sundays. However, on the European continent, the British are an exception and go to …

…the polls on Thursday!

The only notable exception was in 1978, when a local election was moved to a Wednesday so as not to interfere with the start of the World Cup in Argentina the following day.

Why ? There are different theories >>>

Since 1931, the British have traditionally voted on a Thursday.  However, there is no British law that justifies this choice. Journalists nevertheless put forward a hypothesis that could be linked to… beer! Previously, the British used to vote on Fridays. But this option was ruled out by politicians because on the same day, Britons used to collect their weekly wages and flock to the pubs. So, it’s a bit of a muddle when it comes to voting!

Politicians feared that barkeepers and brewers, traditionnaly conservatives, would have too much influence on the vote of customers who were confused by alcohol.

For fear of the church having too much influence on the choice of voters, Sunday was also ruled out by the politicians of the time.

Thursday also had the advantage of being a market day in the UK. While the country was suffering from a high level of abstention at the time, holding an election on the fifth day of the week ensured that there would be a large number of people on the streets, and therefore potentially in the polling booth.

In 2014, Brussels proposed that the UK should fall in line with other countries for EU elections. “No” was replied, the UK’s Europe minister at the time:

David Lidington

“The UK holds elections on Thursday, and we will continue to hold elections on that day.”

Unsure of your level?

Take our online test to find what level of French class is suitable for you.