President of the United States/Election Years are Leap Years

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What is a Leap Year?[edit]

In simplest terms, a Leap Year is a "calendar correction". According to the Gregorian Calendar, the current standard calendar in most of the world, leap day falls on February 29th which occurs for those years evenly divisible by four, unless it marks the century and isn't divisible by 400. For example, 1900 was not a leap year, even though it is divisible by four.

So, for instance, the year 1776, when the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress of the orignal Thirteen Colonies, was a Leap Year. Another Leap Year, certainly less well known than 1776, but quite important for our purposes, occurred just 12 years later in 1788.

The First Presidential Election[edit]

The United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention. The Convention submitted the Constitution to the Congress of the Confederation, where it received approval according to Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation.

While Delaware was the first to sign the Constitution on December 7, 1787, the 9th signature, provided by New Hampshire on June 21, 1788 determined the ratification. Once ratified, the Constitution provided definition for a new Office of the President to head the Executive Branch of the US government. Before the first elections were held, the 10th & 11th colonies signed the Constitution, Virginia on June 25, 1788, and New York on July 26, 1788. The election polls opened on December 15, 1788 and closed on January 10, 1789. Because of the end date, the first election is generally referred to as the Election of 1789.

George Washington, the 1st President was inaugurated April 30, 1789, and served until March 4, 1797, having been reelected to a second term in 1792.

Leap Year Revisted[edit]

From 1792 to the present day, the United States has held a Presidential Election every four years, even when at war with itself. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President was elected to a second term in 1864. Though the war may have ended with Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated only 6 days later. As Vice President, Andrew Johnson succeeded Lincoln to become the 17th President. On June 23, 1865, Stand Watie became the last Confederate general in the field to stand down.

Oddly enough, though an election occurs every four years, not every election year falls on a Leap Year. The reason is simple enough and is once again based on the Gregorian Calendar, which dictates that years marking the end of a century (ie: multiples of 100) are only leap years if also divisible by 400. As a result, 1600, 2000, & 2400 are leap years, but 1800, 1900, & 2100 are not.

However, this triviality is a minor blemish to the value otherwise provided by the simple generalization that Election Years are Leap Years. Not even the larger discrepancy that the very first election was completed in 1789 is sufficient deterrent to employing this convenient tool.

Assignment[edit]

Complete Worksheet 1.