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Know Your Rights: State Laws on Employee Time Off to Vote

Photo by Ho John Lee

Federal law does not require that employers allow their workers time off to vote, but the majority of states have at least some level of protection for employees who want to leave work to engage in their civic duty. The specifics vary by state, but in each state, the rules apply to almost every type of workplace. Employers are required to know the laws and to provide adequate accommodations according to the rules of that state. Though many states allow employees to have up to three hours off during the time the polls are open (the number of hours varies by state), nearly all of the states allow employers to refuse time off to vote.

Check the table below to see how it works in your state:

State Time Allowed to Vote Paid Notes
Alabama See notes. No Time off is allowed if the employee starts work less than two hours after the polls open and finishes less than one hour before the polls close.
Alaska See notes. Yes No specific limit is listed as long as the time available is "sufficient" time to vote. If there are two hours between the opening of the polls and the beginning of the employee’s normal working hours or between the closing of the polls and the end of the normal working hours, then employees may not take time off, with pay, to vote.
       
Arizona 3 hours Yes Voters who do not have three consecutive hours before or after work while the polls are open may take paid time off work at the beginning or end of their shift so that they have three consecutive hours to vote. However, the employee should request this time off from their employer the day before the election.
Arkansas See notes. No Employers must schedule the work hours of their employees on Election Day so that the employees have sufficient opportunity to vote.
California 2 hours Yes Employees may take time at the beginning or end of the work shift, or at another time if the employer and employee agree to it. If the employee will require time off to vote three or more days before the election, then the employee should give the employer two working days’ notice of the intent to take time off to vote.
Colorado 2 hours Yes Requires prior notice and the employee may request that the time off occur at the beginning or end of a work shift. Does not apply to employees whose work schedules provide at least three hours of time when the polls are open and they are not on the job.
Connecticut No    
Delaware No    
District of Columbia No    
Florida No   The state does not address the issue but many local ordinances do. Contact your city or town election office for more information.
Georgia 2 hours No Requires notice to employers, who may decide when employees are able to leave to vote. Applies to employees whose workday starts earlier than two hours before the polls open or ends later than two hours after the polls close.
Hawaii 2 hours Yes Excludes any lunch or rest periods. The employer must permit an absence from work if the employee’s working hours begin less than two hours after polls open and less than two hours before polls close. If, however, the employer can verify that the employee took leave and failed to vote, the employer may make appropriate deductions from the employee’s salary or wages. 
Idaho No    
Illinois 2 hours Yes Required only for general elections and special elections. Applies to Election Day only. Requires at least one day of notice before Election Day to employer—if the employee requests time off to vote on Election Day, employers are not required to provide it. The employer may decide when during the work day the employee may leave to vote, except that the employer must permit a two-hour absence during working hours if the employee's working hours begin less than two hours after the opening of the polls and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls. For primary elections, a voter must have the consent of the employer. The employer can specify when the voter may leave.
Indiana No    
Iowa 3 hours Yes If an employee does not have three consecutive hours off work while the polls are open, the employee may leave work to vote on Election Day. An employee must notify the employer in writing before Election Day of the decision to take time off. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may leave work to vote.
Kansas 2 hours Yes Employers must provide time off work to vote unless the polls are open for two hours before or after the employee’s work shift. The total time off allowed is two hours, less the time the polls are open before or after work. The employer can specify the particular time when the employee may be absent as long as that time is not during a regular lunch break.
Kentucky 4 hours No Employers must allow employees time off work to vote on Election Day or during early voting, if the person has asked for leave before the day the person appears to vote or request an absentee ballot. However, the employer may specify the times between which the employee may leave work to vote. The employer cannot penalize the employee for taking time to vote, unless the person does not actually vote and does not have a valid reason for not voting.
Louisiana No   An employer cannot fire an employee for the employee's political opinions or attempt to control how or whether the employee votes. An employer who has at least 20 or more employees cannot coerce or influence employees to engage in any political activities.
Maine No    
Maryland 2 hours Yes If an employee does not already have two continuous hours off work during the time the polls are open on Election Day, then the employer must give them two hours off to vote. Employees must provide proof to the employer that they voted or attempted to vote. Voters should ask election judges for an official form they can use for such proof.
Massachusetts First 2 hours after polls open (employees in specific industries) No Applies to workers in manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile (retail) establishments. Employee must apply for a leave of absence for time off.
Michigan No    
Minnesota See notes. Yes Time off is required, but no specific limit is listed as long as the time available is "sufficient" time to vote.
Mississippi No    
Missouri 3 hours Yes Applies to an employee who does not have three consecutive hours off on Election Day during the time the polls are open. The voter must have notified their employer of their intention to take time off work to vote before Election Day, and the employer may specify which three consecutive hours during the time the polls are open that the voter may take off. The employer cannot penalize or refuse to pay a voter who takes this time off to vote.
Montana No    
Nebraska 2 hours Yes Applies to employees who do not have two consecutive hours when not required to be at work during polling hours. Pay cannot be deducted if the employee gives notice in advance of Election Day. The employer can set the time for leave to vote.
Nevada 1 to 3 hours    (See notes.) Yes Employees must request time off before Election Day and their employers can designate the time at which they can leave work to vote. Employees who work two miles or less from the polling place may take one hour; two to 10 miles, two hours; more than 10 miles, three hours. The voter cannot be penalized by their employer for exercising these rights.
New Hampshire No   Employees may request an absentee ballot if they must be physically present at work, or in transit to and from work, during the period the polls are open.
New Jersey No    
New Mexico 2 Yes Applies to employees who start work less than two hours after the polls are open or end less than three hours before the polls close. Employers cannot penalize employees for the absence but may specify the hours during which employees may vote.
New York 2 hours (See notes.) Yes If an employee requires more than two hours to vote, then the employee may take additional unpaid time to vote. The employer can require that the employee take their time off at the beginning or end of their working shift. An employee must notify their employer of their intent to take time off to vote at least two days before Election Day and no more than 10 days before Election Day. However, if an employee has four consecutive hours off either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of their work shift, or between the end of their work shift and the closing of the polls, then the employee cannot take time off to vote.
North Carolina No    
North Dakota No
(See notes.)
  Does not require employers to give employees leave to vote but recommends it.
Ohio See notes. See notes. Time off is required, but no specific limit is listed as long as the time available is "reasonable" time to vote. The Ohio attorney general interpreted O.R.C. § 3599.06 to require employers to pay only exempt (salaried) employees for voting leave. Employers, however, do not have to pay hourly, commissioned or piecework employees for voting leave.
Oklahoma 2 hours (or more, depending on polling location) Yes Applies to employees who begin their workday less than three hours after polls open and finish less than three hours before polls close. Employee must give notice the day before Election Day and cannot have pay reduced if proof of voting is provided (state government employees may provide the "I voted" sticker as proof—check with your employer on the acceptable form of proof). The employer can set the leave time to vote.
Oregon No
(See notes.) 
  Oregon is a vote-by-mail state, with the option of voting in person.
Pennsylvania No   Employers may not bribe, threaten or fire employees for voting, for not voting or based on how they vote.
Puerto Rico See notes.   Election Day is a legal holiday in Puerto Rico and most employees have the day off work. Employers running a business in operation on Election Day, however, must establish shifts allowing employees to go to the polls between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Rhode Island No    
South Carolina No        (See notes.)   Voters whose employment obligations require their presence at their workplace on Election Day while the polls are open can vote via absentee ballot.
South Dakota 2 hours Yes Applies to employees who do not have two consecutive hours when not required to be at work during the hours the polls are open. The employer can set the leave time to vote.
Tennessee 3 hours Yes Applies to employees who do not have three consecutive hours when not required to be at work during the hours the polls are open. Employees must apply to their employers for this time off by noon the day before Election Day, and the employers may specify the hours during which the employee may leave work to vote.
Texas See notes. Yes Time off is required, but no specific limit is listed as long as the time available is "sufficient" time to vote and the employee does not have two consecutive non-working hours on Election Day during the time the polls are open.
Utah 2 hours Yes Applies to employees who have less than three non-work hours when polls are open. Employees must request leave before Election Day.
Vermont See notes.   There is no requirement for leave to vote, but a law allowing unpaid time off for attending town meetings can be applied to voting. Requires the employee to give the employer seven days' notice of the employee's intent to attend the town hall meeting. 
Virginia No    
Washington No
See notes.) 
  No time off is necessary, the state is entirely vote-by-mail.
West Virginia 3 hours Yes Applies to employees who do not have three hours of their own time during polling hours. The employee must demand leave in writing at least three days before Election Day. In certain essential operations, employers receiving written requests can set the leave time hours.
Wisconsin 3 hours No An employee may have three consecutive hours off work during the hours the polls are open. The employer does not have to pay the employee for these hours, and the employer can set the leave time hours. An employee should notify their employer of their desire to take time off to vote no later than the day before Election Day.
Wyoming 1 hour (other than a meal break) Yes Applies to employees who do not have three consecutive hours off work during the hours the polls are open.

Information derived from state government, Electionary and other reliable publicly available sources, but not guaranteed. This is not legal advice.

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Election 2016
voting

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