Taking the Time off to Vote

Today is the mid-term elections. And it always puzzles me why we don’t have a better turn-out when it comes to voting in this country. Voting is free, in many places it opens early and stays open late and now we even have early voting as well as absentee ballots. So why doesn’t everyone vote? It is a mystery. But this is a payroll blog not a political one so let’s get on with voting and payroll. By that I mean, what is required of employers when it comes to voting and their employees. Is it mandatory for an employer to allow an employee time off work to vote?

Although most elections are federal in some form or manner there is no federal law that specifies the employer requirements for time off to vote. The federal law protects a person’s right to vote by prohibiting interference with the voting process, including voting, campaigning, or acting as a poll watcher or election official. But actually mandating time off to vote during working hours is another area left up to the individual states. States that have a mandate generally require the employee be given enough time to vote unless there is a certain amount of time available to the employee either before or after the shift to vote. An example of this is for Nebraska which states that the employee must have up to 2 hours unless polls open 2 hours before or after work. This is actually the most common mandate. 15 states require the two hour window. These states include: AK, CO, GA, HI, IL, KS, MD, MA, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX, UT and WA. Six states require a 3 hour window. An example is Arizona which requires up to three hours, unless polls open three hours before or after work. Other states that require the three hour window include IA, MO, TN WI and WV. Two states, AL and WY require only a one hour window and KY and NY have the longest requirements with a four hour window.

But some states are not quite as clear cut on their requirements. For example, NV, mandates “sufficient time” from one to 3 hours depending on the distance from or to the poll. Some states, including AR and CA just state that work hours must be scheduled to allow employees the opportunity to vote. MN requires time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot and return to work on the day of the election. MS just requires necessary time to cast a vote. ND encourages employers to provide voting leave when the employee’s regular work schedule conflicts with times polls are open. OH just states “reasonable time”. However many states do not have any provisions concerning voting. These include: CT, DE, DC, FL, ID, IN, LA, ME, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NC, OR, PA, RI and SC. The law in VT permits an employee to be entitled to take an unpaid leave from employment to attend his or her annual town meeting. While VA does not specify a time limit but looks to the starting and ending times of the workday on voting day.

It is important to determine and follow the requirements when it comes to allowing employees time off to vote.

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