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Can I Leave Work to Vote? Check Your State's Voting Laws First

Do you know what rights you have when it comes to taking time off work to vote? Employers and employees alike should know their state and local voting leave laws.

Sasha Butkovich headshot November 2017
Sasha Butkovich
Oct 05, 20206 minutes

Between presidential elections, midterms, and various local elections, there are many opportunities for Americans to exercise their right to vote. Of course, some employees need to take some time off of work to do so.

It’s important for employers and employees alike to know their state and local voting leave laws. These laws will typically tell you whether employers are required to give employees time off to vote, whether it should be paid or unpaid, and other important details.

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Taking Time Off to Vote

Many workers wonder whether they have a right to take time off of work to vote. The answer, as with most employment-related laws, is that it depends on the applicable jurisdiction. Most states have laws that give employees the right to take time off to vote, but the laws vary substantially from one state to the next.

For example, many state voting laws allow employees to take only a certain amount of time off from work, or only if they don’t have enough time to vote before or after work while the polls are open. A few states require that time off to vote be paid, while others only entitle employees to use accrued personal leave.

Most states have laws that give employees the right to take time off to vote, but the laws vary from one state to the next.

Some laws include provisions requiring employees to provide advance notice before taking time off to vote. Giving notice is a best practice anyway, as employees will want to coordinate with their employers to make sure they’re covered for any time away from the workplace.

Employers and employees alike should make their obligations and rights under the laws that apply to them. Keep in mind that most (but not all) states prevent an employer from firing or disciplining employees because they take time off to vote.

If you are an employee in a state or locality that doesn’t have voting laws in place, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager or employer about your plans to vote. You’ll probably find them to be supportive, and willing to make reasonable accommodations for Election Day. If not, you can always check your state’s procedures around early voting or absentee voting to get your ballot counted that way.

Related Article: Get Out the Vote: Ways to Motivate Employees to Make it to the Polls

If you’re an employer, it’s a good idea to not only ensure your company’s voting policy aligns with applicable laws, but is also clearly outlined in your employee handbook for easy access by anyone on your team. In addition, make sure you're complying with applicable posting requirements. At least two states, New York and California, require employers to conspicuously post a notice of employees' rights to take time off to vote at least ten days before the election.

Exploring State Voting Laws

State voting laws vary in a variety of factors, including:

  • Amount of leave required, and exceptions
  • Notice required by employee
  • Whether time off must be paid
  • Whether proof of voting is required

Here, we’ve rounded up a few state voting laws to give you an idea of how these requirements can look. If your state isn’t on this short list, check out this list to learn more about similar laws in other states.

California

  • Time off required? Yes, up to two hours at the beginning or end of a shift.
  • Exceptions: Not required if employee has sufficient time to vote outside of working hours
  • Advance notice required? Yes, two working days before election
  • Paid time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: The California Elections Code also requires employers to post a notice no less than 10 days before every statewide election explaining employees' right to time off to vote. The notice must be posted in a conspicuous place at the work site.

Read the law for details.

Colorado

  • Time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Exceptions: Not required if employee has three non-work hours available while polls are open
  • Advance notice required? Yes
  • Paid time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details.

Georgia

  • Time off required? Yes, as much as necessary, up to two hours
  • Exceptions: Not required if polls are open at least two hours before or after start or end of shift
  • Advance notice required? No
  • Paid time off required? Yes
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details.

Illinois

  • Time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Exceptions: Employers may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent, except that the employer must permit a 2-hour absence during working hours if the employee’s working hours begin less than 2 hours after opening of the polls and end less than 2 hours before closing of the polls.
  • Advance notice required? Yes, at least one day in advance for general or state election
  • Paid time off required? Yes
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details.

Massachusetts

  • Time off required? Yes, the first two hours that polls are open.
  • Exceptions: None
  • Advance notice required? Employees must apply for a leave of absence, but no time is specified
  • Paid time off required? No
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: Applies to workers in manufacturing, mechanical or retail industries.

Read the law for details.

New York

  • Time off required? Yes, up to two hours of paid time off for voting, only if the employee does not have sufficient time to vote outside of working hours.
  • Advance notice required? Yes, not more than 10 or less than two working days before the election.
  • Paid time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: Conspicuous notice of voting rights must be posted at least 10 working days before every election.

Read the law for details.

Texas

  • Time off required? An employer may not refuse to allow employees to take time off, but no time limit is specified
  • Exceptions: Not required if an employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open.
  • Advance notice required? No
  • Paid time off required? Yes
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details.

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.