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Who Can Vote? Voting Leave Laws for 2016

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on September 15, 2016

iStock_72937593_LARGE.jpgMany employees consider voting to be one of their fundamental rights and may even say that voting is their duty. Because of the immensely important status voting has in the eyes of the government and many citizens, most states have laws that protect an employee’s right to vote. 

While, generally speaking, there are laws put into place regarding an employee’s right to vote, not all voting laws are equal and may differ wildly depending on the state. States’ laws can differ in respect to who can take time off, whether notice is needed, under what circumstances time can be taken off, how much time can be taken off, and even whether an employee needs to be paid during their time at the polls. The only constant is that exempt employees need to be paid if they take time off to vote. 

Given how drastic the differences may be, and how nuanced some of the laws are, it is important to know the ins and outs of voting laws in your state. 

An Overview of State Laws 

The following are the general laws that each state has in regards to voting. If the state is not listed, then there is no law in place addressing voting rights. There may be additional laws in place and more information can be found at the local board of elections and the state labor department. 

Alabama 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employees can take time off to vote unless polls open within two hours of the employee’s shift beginning or close within one hour of their shift ending. Employees must request the time off but employers are allowed to determine when the employee may leave to vote.

 

Alaska 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If the polls open less than two hours before an employee is to arrive at work or close less than two hours after an employee is to leave, they may take as much time as needed to vote.

 

Arizona 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees must apply to receive leave to vote. Employees that apply and do not have three hours at the beginning or ending of their shifts to reach the polling places can take time from the beginning or end of their shift so that they have three consecutive hours with which to vote.

 

Arkansas 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employers are required to create voting schedules so that every employee can vote.

 

California

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees can take up to two paid hours, at the beginning or end of their shift, to vote.

 

Colorado 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have three or more consecutive hours off of work to vote, they are allowed to apply for time to vote. The employee will have two hours off, which the employer will choose, but which falls at the beginning or ending of the shift.

 

Georgia 

Paid: No

Summary: Employees that do not have two consecutive hours of time away from work while the polls are open can apply to vote. Employees are given two hours during their shift to vote.

 

Hawaii 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees that do not have two consecutive hours off of work while the polls are open are entitled to two paid hours off in order to vote. In order to receive pay for voting time, proof of voting must be obtained by the employer.

 

Illinois 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employees whose shifts begin less than two hours after polls open or ends less than two hours before the polls close are entitled to two hours off of work to vote. Employees must give prior notice to employers.

 

Iowa 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees who do not have three consecutive hours in which to vote are able to take time away from work so that they have three consecutive hours away from work in which to vote.

 

Kansas 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees are entitled to leave work for up to two hours to vote if there are not two consecutive hours during which the employee is not at work and the polls are open. The employee may only take enough time to grant them two consecutive hours to vote.

 

Kentucky 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employees are allowed to take four hours off of work to vote. Employers are at liberty to say when an employee can be away from work.

 

Maryland 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees who do not have two consecutive hours of time off work while the polls are open are entitled to two hours of leave in order to vote.

 

Massachusetts 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employees in the manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile industries, who have applied for voting leave, do not need to be at work within the first two hours of the polls opening.

 

Minnesota 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees can take the morning off in order to vote.

 

Missouri 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: With prior notice, employees are able to take three hours off of work, provided there are not three consecutive hours during which the polls are open and the employee is not required to be at their place of employment.

 

Nebraska 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have two consecutive hours not at work while polls are open, they may, with notice, take two consecutive hours off to vote. The employer may set the time that the employee may be gone from work.

 

Nevada 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee is unable to get to the polls before or after work, they are entitled to one to three paid hours off in order to vote, depending on the distance from their job site and the polling place. The employee must request time off in advance and the employer is allowed to set the time that the employee can leave.

 

New Mexico 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If polls open less than two hours before an employee must be at work or close less than three hours after an employee’s shift ends, they are entitled to two paid hours to vote. The employer is allowed to designate when the employee can leave.

 

New York 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Any employee who does not have four hours of continuous time away from work and while polls are open is allowed two hours paid leave to vote. Employees must apply for this time and employers are allowed to determine whether the time off is at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift.

 

Ohio 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees are allowed to take a “reasonable amount of time to vote.”

 

Oklahoma 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If the polls open less than three hours before an employee is on duty and close less than three hours after the employee’s shift is over, they are entitled to two hours to vote (or more, depending on the distance to the polling place). The employer is allowed to set the time that the employee is able to leave.

 

South Dakota 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: Employees who do not have two consecutive hours of time when not required to be at work and while the polls are open are allowed to have two hours of leave to vote. Employers are allowed to set the time during which the employee can be away.

 

Tennessee 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee begins his or her shift less than three hours after polls open and ends his or her shift less than three hours before polls close, they are allowed three hours paid voting leave, with notice. The employer is allowed to determine when leave is to be taken.

 

Texas 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have two consecutive hours outside of work while the polls are open, they are entitled to vote during the workday.

 

Utah 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have three consecutive hours when they are not required to be at work and the polls are open, they are entitled to up to two hours of leave. The employee must request leave prior to Election Day. The employer can set the time of the leave unless the employee requests time at the beginning or end of a shift.

 

Washington 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have two consecutive free hours (excluding meals and breaks) while the polls are open, and has received his or her schedule with insufficient time to receive an absentee ballot, they are allowed to have up to two hours to vote. The employer is allowed to determine when the employee can leave to vote.

 

West Virginia 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have three consecutive hours away from work while the polls are open, they are entitled to up to three paid hours to vote. The employee must make a leave request in writing no fewer than three days before Election Day.

 

Wisconsin 

Paid: No 

Summary: Employees who wish to vote must make a request prior to Election Day. Employees are entitled to up to three hours to vote. The time during which voting occurs is up to the discretion of the employer.

 

Wyoming 

Paid: Yes 

Summary: If an employee does not have three consecutive hours away from work and when the polls are open are entitled to one hour of leave to vote. The employer is allowed to determine the time for each employee.

 

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Christine Batten, PHR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.