01 November 2022

Election Season: What Employers Should Know About Voting and Other Political Leave

It’s midterm season. Signs of the upcoming election are everywhere. Commercials on tv and radio. Signs at every intersection. Text messages. So many text messages. HOW DID THEY GET MY NUMBER?!? Sorry . . . we’ll save that for another time.

Back on topic: it’s news to no one that November 8 is the day voters nationwide will vote to put their favored candidates in office and push through—or strike down—various ballot measures. But what happens when an employee comes to you and asks for a few hours off to vote at the end of the shift? “Ha!” you think, “Just another attempt to try to get out of working!” Not so fast, my friend.

While there is no federal right to time off to vote (a bill introduced in the House of Representatives stalled, crushing hope that a federal voting leave law would be in place before Election Day), there are still voting leave laws in 30 states and the District of Columbia that can trip up employers. Painting in broad strokes, the 30 states, plus D.C., that require employers to provide employees with time off to vote on Election Day are (states listed in bold require paid leave):

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • D.C.
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota (“encouraged”)
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming


To make things difficult, each of these states has specific parameters controlling voter leave. Some states allow for a single hour of leave, for example, while others allow for more. Some states, like Alabama, California, and New York, require employees to give advance notice to take voter leave. Others might require only a day’s advance notice. Some states even require employers to take affirmative actions. In California, New York, and D.C., employers must post notice informing employees of their right to take voter leave.

Of course, there’s more to elections than simply voting. So, too, are there other types of election related leave. Employees who serve as election officials or judges are entitled to broader leave on Election Day in many states, including Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota (paid), Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Even beyond that, Minnesota and Texas require some employers to provide employees with unpaid leave for attendance at party conventions and committee meetings. And, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont require some employers to provide unpaid leave for employees to serve as elected state government representatives. In short, the political leave requirements and restrictions nationwide are made up of a patchwork of state laws. Maybe one uniform federal law wouldn’t be so bad after all—it’d at least make things easier to administer.

What about states that have no voting leave laws in place? Employers’ hands aren’t tied from demonstrating their generosity and encouraging patriotic virtues. Employers can offer paid (or unpaid) leave to allow employees to vote or engage in other political activities, even where the law does not require it. That’s a relatively minimal cost and burden to employers, and can be a great trade off in exchange for employee goodwill—especially given labor shortages in some industries. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway): employers should never tell employees how to vote or discriminate against which employees may take advantage of employer-provided voting leave.

We recommend that you review the political leave laws that apply where your company operates and employs workers. As you can see, for employers subject to multiple state laws, the nuances can become especially complex. Our National Employment Law Compliance team is ready to help, and can provide everything from comprehensive summaries of legal developments to state-specific policies to help you easily administer these issues (learn more). And, of course, we’re all ready for November 9 – when the ads go away and the random text messages (hopefully) stop.


Contact the author Adam Walker.

National Employment Law Compliance Bulletin

Whether you have a handful of employees working remotely in different states or multiple workplaces across the country, we know you need to stay up-to-date with employment laws nationwide. We also know that trying to stay updated with the laws of multiple states – in addition to all of the other jobs that are required of the modern HR professional – is a daunting task. Never fear, the Miller Johnson National Employment Law Compliance practice group is here to help.

Our team of attorneys regularly track employment law developments in all 50 states. Every two weeks, we publish the Compliance Bulletin – a straightforward and comprehensive summary of nationwide legal developments that allows you to efficiently keep your finger on the pulse of employment laws that apply to your employees. As always, Miller Johnson’s team of employment and labor attorneys are ready to help when you want to update your policies, or if you need more information about a recent legal development. For more information about the Compliance Bulletin subscription, click here.

National Employment Law Compliance Bulletin

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