Voting During Work Hours: Time Off to Vote Laws by State

By Kathy Morris - Oct. 19, 2020

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There are no federal laws requiring employers to give time off work to vote. This means that, depending upon where you live, you may or may not have a legal right to vote during the work day.

To further complicate matters, even states where employers are legally required to let you vote during work hours may have exceptions to the rule.

You can see a full breakdown on your state voting rights below, in addition to how long you can expect voting to take and answers to commonly asked questions:

Are Employers Required By Law To Allow Workers To Vote During Work Hours?

The majority of states, 29, say employers must allow workers to vote during work hours.

However, 22 states do have exceptions built into the law. The bulk of these exceptions clarify that employees are only entitled to time off if they do not have “sufficient time” to visit the polls outside of work hours. Sufficient time is defined differently by different states.

You can see any exceptions for voting during work hours in your state here.

Of the 29 states where you have legal rights to vote during the work hours, 22 require paid time off be given to employees to vote.

Frequently, the paid time off is limited to a few hours, or the period of time it is assumed workers will need to vote. So, don’t assume just because your state has paid time off, you’ll receive a full day off. Additionally, only workers who are entitled to vote during work hours are eligible for pay to vote.

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You can read more about paid-time off for voting in your state here.

How Long Will It Take To Vote?

The time it takes you to vote varies based on the state you live in, the location of your polling place, time of day, and many factors completely outside of your control.

The map above indicates whether your state has higher or lower than average wait times. These times only include the amount of time spent waiting to receive your ballot. They do not include voting time, or the amount of time spent traveling to (or from) the polls.

Most state laws assume voting will take 2 hours, so, if possible, you will want to block off at least two hours to vote to be safe.

The GAO survey on voting time, found that wait times increased over the course of the day. The morning was the fastest time to vote- with most ballots being cast in under 10 minutes.

If time is a concern, and morning voting possible, you might want to try and vote first thing in the morning.

If you are one of the many Americans with a commute, it will also saving you time traveling back and forth to the office.

FAQs

I’m scheduled to work on Election Day. Do I have a right to take time off from work to vote?

There are no federal laws mandating employers give employers time of to vote during work hours. However, the majority of states do say, with some exceptions, that workers must be allowed to vote during work hours. You can see where your state stands here.

How do I take advantage of the law in my state to vote during work hours on Election Day?

The first step is knowing what the law in your state is. Even if your state is one of the majority that say workers are entitled to vote during work hours, exceptions exist.

Do I have to give advanced notice to my employer I plan to vote during work hours?

In general, it is almost never a bad idea to let your employer know you will be arriving a little late or taking a longer than usual lunch break.

However, not only is it polite, it is also required in some states to give advanced notice of your intention to vote during work hours.

I want to volunteer or work at the polls on Election Day. Can my employer stop me from doing that?

While more companies are allowing employees time off to work the polls, there are no federal or state laws requiring employers allow employees to work polls during elections.

If your work gives volunteer time off, you can ask to use that time to work the polls. Otherwise, you may need to follow your companies leave policy and use PTO.

How do I ask my employer about voting during work hours?

Just because your state doesn’t require companies to allow workers to vote during work hours, doesn’t mean you cannot vote during work hours.

The best tactic is to ask, plain and simple, if there is a company policy in place for voting during work hours. Many companies go above and beyond state law to help make voting easier for their employees.

If not, you can then politely explain that you would like to vote but are unable to do so outside of work hours. If helpful, you can explain why (long commute making it impossible to vote and arrive at work during voting hours, no window of time outside of your work shift or with other important commitments, etc.) However, do not feel obligated to divulge personal information you are not comfortable sharing.

Feel free to suggest compromises, such as working remotely to be closer to your voting stations or shifting your work day back or forward to accommodate polling place hours.

My state specifies a time of day for voting that is inconvenient or undesirable for me, do I have to vote during this time?

You do not have to vote during this time. However, your work is not required to give you time off during the work day to vote outside of this time.

Similarly, if you live in a state where the employer is allowed to choose a time, your time of during work hours is whatever block they select.

Regardless, if the time is inconvenient for you (for example, if your employer chooses the middle of the day when your polling place is near your home, an hour away from work), open a dialogue with your boss and explain the circumstances.

It is entirely possible accommodations can be made.

What happens if I am denied the right to vote because my employer broke the law?

Your employer is legally required to follow all voting laws, or be subject to fines and legal consequences.

Ultimately, the goal of voting during work hours is to vote, and not sue your employer. Proactively bring up voting before election day to help the process go smoothly.

Voting During Work Hours Laws For Each State

State Time Off? Exceptions? Paid or Unpaid? Advance Notice?
Alabama Yes. 1 hour. If the hours of work of the employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls. Unpaid. Yes; “reasonable notice.”
Alaska Yes. Not specified Not required if employee has two consecutive hours available while polls are open at beginning or end of shift Paid No
Arizona Yes; up to 3 hours off between work and non-work time. Not required if employee has three consecutive hours available while polls are open at beginning or end of shift Paid Yes; at least one day before the election
Arkansas Yes; employer must schedule work hours so employee has time to vote Unpaid No
California Yes; up to 2 hours at beginning or end of shift. Yes (up to 2 hours) Yes; 2 working days before election
Colorado Yes; up to 2 hours. Not required if employee has three non-work hours available while polls are open Paid, up to 2 hours. No
Connecticut No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Delaware No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. Employee who has accrued vacation time and is not in a “critical need” position may serve as an election officer without reprisal by the employer.
Florida No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But workers can’t be disciplined or fired based on how they vote.
Georgia Yes; as much as necessary, up to 2 hours Unpaid Employee must provide reasonable notice.
Hawaii Yes; 2 consecutive hours. Employer cannot change employee’s regular work schedule. Not required if employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid No
Idaho No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Illinois Yes; 2 hours. Employer may decide when hours are taken except that employer must permit a 2-hour absence during working hours if employee’s working hours begin less than 2 hours after opening of polls and end less than 2 hours before closing of polls. Paid Yes, one day in advance for general or state election.
Indiana No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Iowa Yes; as much time as will add up to 3 hours, when combined with non-work time Not required if employee has three consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid Yes, in writing prior to the election
Kansas Yes; 2 hours or as much time as will add up to 2 hours, when combined with non-work time Not required if employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid No
Kentucky Yes; “reasonable time,” but not more than 4 hours Unpaid 1 day notice
Louisiana No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers of 20 or more employees can’t interfere with their employees’ “political activities or affiliations.”
Maine No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Maryland Yes; 2 hours Not required if employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid Yes
Massachusetts Yes, first 2 hours that polls are open Unpaid Employee must apply for leave of absence (no time specified).
Michigan No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Minnesota May be absent during the morning of election day No No
Mississippi No specific laws regarding time off to vote
Missouri Yes, 3 hours Not required if employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid, but employee must vote Yes, “prior to the day of election”
Montana No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Nebraska Yes, as much time as will add up to 2 hours, when combined with non-work time Not required if employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid Yes, prior to or on election day
Nevada If it is not practical to vote before or after work, employee may take time off based on distance from polling place Not required if sufficient time during non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid Yes, prior to election day
New Hampshire No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot influence or intimidate employees to vote for or against a particular candidate.
New Jersey Yes; 2 hours Not required if employee’s workday begins more than 2 hours after polls open or ends more than 3 hours before polls close. Paid No
New Mexico Yes; 2 hours Not required if employee’s workday begins more than 2 hours after polls open or ends more than 3 hours before polls close. Paid No
New York Yes; as much time at beginning or end of shift as will give employee time to vote, when combined with non-work time Not required if employee has 4 consecutive non-work hours available at beginning or end of shift while polls are open. Paid, up to 2 hours Yes, not more than 10 or less than 2 working days before the election.
North Carolina No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot discharge or threaten workers based on how they vote or don’t vote.
North Dakota Employers encouraged to give employees time off to vote when regular work schedule conflicts with times polls are open Unpaid No
Ohio Yes; “reasonable time” Paid only for salaried employees No
Oklahoma Yes; 2 hours, unless employee lives so far from polling place that more time is needed. Not required if employee’s workday begins more than 3 hours after polls open or ends more than 3 hours before polls close. Paid Orally or in writing one day before the election
Oregon No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Pennsylvania No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot threaten or intimidate employees to influence their political opinions or actions.
Rhode Island No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot put information in pay envelopes or post information designed to influence employees’ political actions.
South Carolina No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot discharge a worker because of political opinions or the exercise of political rights and privileges.
South Dakota Yes; 2 consecutive hours Not required if employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid No
Tennessee Yes; reasonable time up to 3 hours Not required if employee’s workday begins more than 3 hours after polls open or ends more than 3 hours before polls close. Paid Yes, before noon on Election Day
Texas Employer may not refuse to allow employee to take time off, but no time limit specified Not required if employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid No
Utah Yes; 2 hours at beginning or end of shift. Not required if employee has at least 3 non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid Yes, before Election Day
Vermont No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.
Virginia No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employees working and commuting for 11 hours of the 13 hours polls are open may vote by absentee ballot.
Washington No laws require employers to give workers time off to vote. However, no person, including an employer, can attempt to influence any person to withhold his or her vote.
West Virginia Yes; up to 3 hours Not required if employee has at least 3 non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid (if employee votes) Written request at least three days before election
Wisconsin Yes; up to 3 consecutive hours. Unpaid Yes, before Election Day
Wyoming Yes; 1 hour, other than a meal break Not required if employee has at least 3 consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open. Paid (if employee votes) No

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Kathy Morris

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Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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