By: Jesse Rifkin for GovTrack Insider, Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Should we allow employees time off work to vote on Election Day?
When Pew Research Center asked people who were registered to vote but hadn’t why they didn’t, 14% cited inability to get time off work or fit voting into their schedules.
More than half of states mandate businesses allow their employees a small amount of time off work to vote on Election Day, while 23 require that time off be paid.
However, there is no federal law requiring a similar policy nationally. And many of the states with no current state-level policy are swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
What the bill does
The Time Off to Vote Act would provide all employees with two hours of paid leave on Election Day for federal elections.
It would not guarantee anything similar for state or local elections, which would have to be determined on a jurisdictional basis rather than nationally.
It was introduced on January 30 as bill number H.R. 882 by Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA8).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would increase voter participation, especially because those least likely to be able to take time off from work to vote tend to be poorer or racial minorities.
“We need to do more to bring people into the electorate,” Rep. Cartwright said in a press release. “In a true democracy, every eligible voter should be able to cast a ballot without having to make a professional or economic sacrifice. Our election results should reflect the will and desires of the American people.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that measures such as early voting and absentee voting, which reached record levels in 2018, mean that offering paid time off to vote on Election Day itself is becoming less necessary.
And even on Election Day itself, almost every state opens before the start of typical working hours, and close around after the close of typical working hours.
A 2018 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that the percent of employers who offer paid time off to vote is currently at an all-time high and rising. That’s thanks to movements such as Time To Vote, which has voluntarily gotten more than 300 companies to sign on — without federal government intervention.
Odds of passage
The bill currently has 27 House cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and Labor Committee.
Even if it passes in the Democratic-controlled House, odds of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate are steep despite a number of red states offering the policy on a state level, such as West Virginia, Wyoming, Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.