On Election Day, a majority of California voters, nearly 60 percent, voted in favor of a ballot proposal to leave the state in daylight saving time all year round. More simply put: They voted against having to set their clocks backward one hour during the winter months, favoring later sunrise and sunset times all year round.
Perhaps the results were influenced by the fact that most of us just turned clocks back on Sunday, and the disruptiveness of it is still on California voters’ minds.
But, for now, the success of California Proposition 7 doesn’t mean too much. The ballot proposal was first introduced by a San Jose Democrat in the State Assembly, the Desert Sun explains, and has been supported by the state’s Democratic Party.
The proposal simply grants the California State Legislature the power to vote to change the clocks permanently. Any changes would need to start with a two-thirds majority vote in the state legislature.
And even then, the time change wouldn’t be a given. Congress would have to approve it, that has uncertain prospects too.
For instance, earlier this year, Florida approved the delightfully named Sunshine Protection Act, which seeks to permanently leave the state in daylight saving time too. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has put forth two bills in Congress to push the approval forward, but they haven’t moved at all.
But at the very least, yesterday’s vote makes it clear more and more people are realizing that daylight saving time, as it currently stands, doesn’t make much sense. Much of Arizona currently doesn’t follow daylight saving time rules, neither does Hawaii.
Why do we have daylight saving time?
Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I and, and it became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is that in the summer months, we shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we’d presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving electricity.
It also means that you’re less likely to sleep through daylight hours in the morning (since those are shifted an hour later too). Hence “saving” daylight hours for the most productive time of the day. (We agree, the name is confusing.)
Despite the fact that daylight saving time was introduced to save fuel, there isn’t strong evidence that the current system actually reduces energy use — or that making it year-round would do so, either. Studies that evaluate the energy impact of DST are mixed. It seems to reduce lighting use (and thus electricity consumption) slightly but may increase heating and AC use, as well as gas consumption. It’s probably fair to say that energy-wise, it’s a wash.
The twice-yearly changing of clocks might even be a little dangerous. Researchers have noticed an uptick of car accidents, workplace injuries, and heart attacks in the days after clocks are pushed forward in the spring, presumably because it causes people to lose an hour of sleep.
Not every state follows saving time. Most of Arizona ignores it, keeping the state in standard time — i.e., the way we set our clocks in the winter — all year long. What’s confusing: The Navajo Nation in Arizona does use DST.
Hawaii also doesn’t observe DST. The island state is the furthest south of all states and rejected it because it doesn’t see a hugely noticeable daylight hour difference between winter and summer months.
Federal law doesn’t mandate that states follow daylight saving time. But staying on saving time all year long is a bit more tricky to implement, requiring congressional approval, according to the Desert Sun.
But if Florida and California do remain on saving time all year long, there’s great potential for confusion. Florida would be one hour ahead of the rest of the East Coast in the winter, but not during the summer. California, meanwhile, would be on the same time as Colorado in the winter, but not the summer. Imagine the headaches of setting up phone calls!