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2022 Midterm Elections: What states require businesses to give workers voting leave?

Various states require employers to provide paid and unpaid leave for voting. Is your state one of them?

Update:
People stand in line for early voting in midterm elections at a public library and voting station in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 4, 2022.   REUTERS/Bob Strong
BOB STRONGREUTERS

To increase voter participation, many countries make Election Day a national holiday or hold the election on the weekend when the majority of workers have to time off. This is not the case in the United States. Federal law requires that elections be hosted on the first Tuesday that follows the first Monday of November.

US midterm elections live online: Election Day | Latest news

This obscure legal tradition dates back to the 1840s when the only people who could cast a ballot were white men. As the US electorate has expanded, this law has never been changed.

Are employers required to provide workers with time off to vote?

Under federal law, employers are required to provide time off for employees, which poses problems for those who have to work or have other caretaking responsibilities.

However, some states have passed laws to ensure that workers have the right to cast a ballot even when they are on the clock. Other states require employers to offer time off but do not mandate that the time to vote be paid.

Of the twenty-four states that require the time off be paid, Alaska, Tennessee, and West Virginia offer the most generous policies providing up to three hours to vote.

States like Ohio allow employers to determine how much time will be given so long as the allotted time is “reasonable.” Missouri, Hawaii, and Wyoming, unlike other states, allow employers to ask workers to show proof of voting if time off is requested.

State# of hours
AlaskaNo time specified
MinnesotaNo time specified
Nevada1 - 3 hours, depending on distance to a polling location
New YorkUp to employer
OhioUp to employer
TexasNo time specified
Wyoming1 hour
California2 hours
Colorado2 hours
District of Colombia2 hours
Georgia2 hours
Hawaii2 hours
Illinois2 hours
Kansas2 hours
Maryland2 hours
Nebraska2 hours
New Mexico2 hours
Oklahoma2 hours
South Dakota2 hours
Utah2 hours, must be used at the beginning or end of the shift
Arizona3 hours
Iowa3 hours
Missouri3 hours
Tennessee3 hours
West Virginia3 hours

which states offer unpaid leave to vote?

Five states, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, required employers to allow unpaid time off for voting. Like those that mandate time off with pay, there are limits to the number of hours a worker can use to cast their ballot.

  • Alabama - 1 hour
  • Arkansas - up to the employer
  • Kentucky - 4 hours
  • Massachusetts - within the first two hours of polls opening
  • Wisconsin - 3 hours

What companies offer employees Election Day off?

Patagonia, the outdoor sportswear company, became one of the first to offer election day as a holiday in 2016. Executives had hoped that their move would encourage others to offer the same benefit to their workers. While the movement picked up in 2020, it remains unclear how many major corporations are providing time off to workers this year.

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