41

I did a quick Google search of the US Constitution's 20th amendment, and it seems to me like section 1 doesn't specify a timezone.

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

What timezone does the section follow?

This answer had me curious.

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  • 20
    It should use the Washington Monument as a sundial. That would be awesome. Jan 23 '17 at 20:29
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    @ThorstenS. All kinds of things can be used. The point of the question is that the Constitution doesn't specify which of the things that could be used actually are used. However, since apparent solar time plays no role in timekeeping in the USA, it would be very surprising if it was what is used in this situation. Jan 24 '17 at 0:20
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    @DavidWallace No, it doesn't imply that. For that to be true, the Constitution would have to specify that "noon" means separately local time in every place and it doesn't specify that. If the writers of the 20th amendment intended "noon" to have some complicated interpretation, it seems very unlikely that they would forget to include that interpretation in the amendment itself. It seems much more likely that they intended a simple interpretation. Jan 24 '17 at 11:34
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    @ThorstenS. At the time the 20th Amendment was written, timezones had been in existence for plenty long enough. Jan 25 '17 at 0:15
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    @WayneWerner: To be precise, it would be awesome to use the Washington Monument as a gnomon for a sundial. Jul 29 '19 at 13:16
46

The United States Constitution does not explicitly state the time zone used.

However, in reality, the Eastern Time Zone which the District of Columbia is in, is followed.

It's likely because it's the local time of the District of Columbia where the inauguration takes place and that D.C. is the capital of the United States.

It doesn't make sense to use a time zone not used by the capital.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Jan 24 '17 at 18:43
  • @CGCampbell As in - "The Eastern Time Zone, where the District of Columbia is in, is used." The However doesn't really work there since it detracts from the main clause, which is probably the first part that feels odd. The rest just needs rewording. Overall though, the entire sentence could be omitted from the answer, and it still works. Except for the link
    – MichaelF
    Jan 24 '17 at 20:26
25

While it is true that the Constitution is unclear on this point, the law (the United States Code) is quite clear:

4 USC 72: Public offices; at seat of Government

All offices attached to the seat of government shall be exercised in the District of Columbia, and not elsewhere, except as otherwise expressly provided by law.

15 USC 262: Duty to observe standard time of zones

In all statutes, orders, rules, and regulations relating to the time of performance of any act by any officer or department of the United States, whether in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of the Government, or relating to the time within which any rights shall accrue or determine, or within which any act shall or shall not be performed by any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, it shall be understood and intended that the time shall insofar as practicable (as determined by the Secretary of Transportation) be the United States standard time of the zone within which the act is to be performed.

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  • You're quoting laws which is fine to expain your sources but how it is linked to the answer?
    – nelruk
    Jan 24 '17 at 16:42
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    The question is "in which timezone" and the law specifies where, and therefore in which timezone. Help me understand how this is not "linked to the answer".
    – aldie_lab
    Jan 24 '17 at 17:26
0

Eastern Standard Time (EST)

UTC / GMT -05:00 hours

Edit: Ok here's some facts for you fact-lovers:

The presidentual innaguration takes places in or outside of the US Capitol building in Washington DC on January 20th (unless that day falls on a Sunday)

In the US, Washinton DC lies within the EST time zone where Daylight Savings time doesn't start until the second Sunday in March.

Therefore, given the location (Washington DC) and Time of year (outside of Daylight Savings). The time zone where the Innuguration takes place (at noon) is EST / GMT-5:00Hrs

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    Welcome to the site! We generally expect that answers are based on factual information. Can you provide a link showing the source of this information? That will help show that this is true, and not your opinion. Jan 23 '17 at 15:44
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    @indigochild: There is no source.
    – Joshua
    Jan 23 '17 at 16:25
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    @Joshua: Then there is no answer. Jan 23 '17 at 18:19
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    @Joshua: Indeed, there is an answer above, and it has a source. Jan 23 '17 at 19:23
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    @JonasBezzubovas: Whether it happens to be correct or not (it is) is besides the point. The point is that it should be evident from the answer itself whether it is demonstrably correct or not. Jan 24 '17 at 11:50
-2

Time zones didn't exist when the Constitution was written. They were created as a means to coordinate train schedules in the 1880's.

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  • 6
    But they did exist when the 20th amendment was written, in 1932 (it was not ratified until 1933).
    – phoog
    Jan 30 '17 at 21:50
  • Time zone weren't needed in the 1780's, either (in the US). I think all the US states at the time were in what would become the Eastern Time Zone. And there were no travel or communications technologies that required coordinating time across large distances.
    – Barmar
    Jan 29 at 19:01

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