Election Day is always on a Tuesday when most voters have to work. Lawmakers decided on this 170 years ago and, aside from things like absentee ballots and early voting in some states, we’re basically stuck with it. This is a problem, though, for workers who are worried about trying to balance their work and civic obligations. Luckily, some states offer protections for them.
The laws for the various states differ as to what employers are required to offer their employees when it comes to voting — if they’re required to offer anything at all.
Who Gets Time Off to Vote?
As with most election-related rules, this depends on which state you’re in. In some states, you’re allowed a certain amount of time off to vote — paid or unpaid, depending on the state. Also, some states require your employer to give you time off, only if you will not have enough time to vote before or after work while the polls are open, according to Workplace Fairness, an organization dedicated to worker’s rights.
Does your state give you time off to vote? Even more important: Is it paid? See below.
Florida: There is no law requiring employers to give time off to vote.
Georgia: Employers must give up to two hours of time off to vote. Paid. Employees required to give "reasonable notice" that they intend to take time off to vote.
Mississippi: There is no law requiring employers to give workers time off to vote.
Tennessee: Employers must give workers up to three hours of time off to vote, unless the employee’s shift begins more than three hours after polls open or ends more than three hours before polls close. Paid. Employee must request leave before noon on the day before the election. Employer has some leeway with setting when time off can be taken.
Kentucky: Employers must provide at least four hours of time off to vote. Unpaid. Employee must give notice of intent to take said time off a day before the election, at the latest. The employee has to be able to prove they used the time to vote, although the law doesn't say exactly what evidence is required. Also, the employer can choose when the time off is taken to vote.
Pennsylvania: There is no law requiring employers to give time off to vote.
New York: Employers have to give as many hours at the start or end of a shift as is necessary to give the employee enough time to vote, when taking into account time not spent working. Up to two of those hours is paid, and time off is not required if the employee has four consecutive non-work hours before or after a shift while polls are open. Employees must make sure to let their employers know they intend to take the time off — not more than 10 or less than two business days before Nov. 8.
Arkansas: Employers must schedule work hours so employees have time to vote. Unpaid.
Alabama: Employers must give one hour of time off to vote, unless the employee’s shift starts at least two hours after the polls open, or ends at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls. Unpaid. Employees must give their employer "reasonable notice" that they intend to take time off to vote.
In order for democracy to work, all citizens need to make their voices heard on Election Day. If you have any other concerns or questions about voting before you hit the polls next month, read our guide that answers the most common questions about voting.
Note: This is part of a series on Election 2016. Previously, we wrote about how federal law ensures people with disabilities have ballot access. Our next article is about the medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot in Florida and Arkansas.
Another important note: If you are eligible to vote in Florida and haven't yet registered, a judge has extended the registration deadline until Oct. 18 in light of Hurricane Matthew.