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Support of Employees’ Right to Vote is Good Business and, In Some States, Legally Required

In the 1840s, when Congress established the Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election Day, it was to allow farmers a full day to get to the county seat without interfering with Sunday, the Christian day of worship, or Wednesday, which was market day. Most people don’t travel by horse and buggy anymore and most don’t need a full day to get to the polls. But in the 31 states with “voting leave” laws, employers are required to make sure their employees still get a chance to go vote on Election Day.

While many states require “reasonable” time off or the amount of time “necessary” to vote, these voter leave laws can vary substantially from state to state. For example, while Texas requires that employees be paid for a reasonable period of time to go vote, some other states don’t require the time off to be paid.1 Likewise, employees in Texas do not have to give advance notice to the employer or any proof that they actually voted, but in other states that may not be the case. For example, in order to take time off in New York, employees have to notify employers between two and ten working days in advance of Election Day.In Oklahoma, an employer may require proof that a vote was cast.3 Although the specifics vary, there is a common exception to the law in many states, including Texas, New York, and Oklahoma: If there are some consecutive hours in which the polls are open on Election Day and the employee isn’t working, the leave rules do not apply.

No matter the state, giving time off to vote can promote civic involvement and improve company morale, and so is likely in many employers’ best interest. Employers that want to give their employees voting leave should implement a clear and concise policy and ensure that the policy complies with the law of the states in which the employees work.

See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 276.004 (West 2015); Texas Workforce Commission Comments, available at https://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/voting_time_off.html

N.Y. Elec. Law § 3-110 (McKinney 2016).

Okla. Stat. tit. 26, § 7-101 (West 2016).

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.