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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 27, 2012

Leap day not a significant concern in field of law, government

This Wednesday is significant for people born on a leap day since they’ll be able to celebrate their birthday on their actual birth anniversary for the first time since 2008.

While people born on leap days continue to age along with the rest of the population, do they face any potential problems for not having “legal” or official birthdays during intervening non-leap years? For instance, if someone with a leap day birthday turns 18 during a non leap year, when can they register to vote?

John Reitz, a professor of law at the University of Iowa and an expert in administrative law, the field of law that includes the administration of government, said that while leap years are an interesting topic for discussion, he’s not aware of any laws speaking to the issue.

In fact, Reitz says, the consequences of leap day aren’t the sort of thing that governments or the law really spend much time thinking about.

“I don’t know of any statute or general rule that has anything to do with leap day,” said Reitz, an absence that suggests the issue has never caused any problems significant enough that they require attention from legislators or other elected bodies.

“Any laws that are time sensitive define a time period—30 days, 60 days, one year. So any impacts of leap day are covered there,” Reitz said.

Reitz speculates that March 1 would likely be considered the legal birthday in non-leap years of someone born on leap day. His reasoning is that Feb. 29 is the day after Feb. 28, so a person born on Feb. 29 is legally considered to have aged one year on the day after Feb. 28. In non-leap years, that day is March 1.

So for someone born on Feb. 29, the first day they can legally drive, vote, join the Army, buy alcohol or start collecting Social Security is presumably March 1 in non-leap years.

According to Wikipedia, a leap year (also called an intercalary or bissextile year) is a year containing one additional day in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track.

By occasionally inserting (or intercalating) an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that is not a leap year is called a common year.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

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