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How to Vote When You Have to Work on Election Day

Topics: Career Advice
when you have to work on election day

Election Day is on a Tuesday in the U.S., a remnant of our formerly agrarian society. (Farmers often needed a day to travel to the polls, leaving Monday a necessary buffer between Sunday and the election.)

But since most of us don’t till the soil for a living anymore, holding elections on Tuesday is inconvenient to say the least. However, before you wash your hands of voting entirely — and please, please don’t do that — you should know that many states and companies make provision for voting. So, even if you have to work on Election Day, you can still get to the polls.

Here’s how:

Check State Law

“Currently, there is no federal law that mandates employers provide their employees time off to cast their ballots,” wrote Rachel Gillett and Grace Panetta at Business Insider earlier this month. “But the majority of US states have time-off-to-vote laws, also referred to as voter-leave laws, and have different requirements and exceptions for employers and employees.”

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Depending on where you live, you might get an hour or two off from work to vote, unlimited time to cast your ballot, or no specified leave. Your employer might be required to pay you, or not.

Unsure about your state law? Check for information on time off to vote, as well as a complete guide to your local ballot.

Ask Your Manager

Even if your state doesn’t legally require your employer to let you leave work to get to the polls, they might choose to do so anyway.

2018 marked a massive push by employers across the country to make voting easier for their workers. As part of the Time to Vote campaign, Patagonia, Walmart and nearly 150 other employers pledged to help their employees find time to cast their votes. Some, like Patagonia, are even giving their workers paid time off to do so.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Even if your state doesn’t legally require your employer to let you leave work to get to the polls, they might choose to do so anyway.” quote=”Even if your state doesn’t legally require your employer to let you leave work to get to the polls, they might choose to do so anyway.”]

Make a Plan

If you haven’t already done so, now’s a good time to take a hard look at your schedule and think about when you’ll be able to get to the polls tomorrow. If you know you won’t be able to leave work to vote — either because your state doesn’t mandate time off or you’re likely to be too busy to put up your away message — figure out how you’ll vote before or after work.

Keep in mind that polls close at different times in different states. Make arrangements for childcare, transportation and other logistical considerations, so you won’t be caught without a babysitter or a ride or a way to fit voting into your schedule.

Need a ride to the polls? Uber, Lyft and several local bike-sharing services are offering free and discounted services on Election Day.

Looking Ahead

An increasing number of states allow early voting. (Washington, Oregon and Colorado are entirely vote by mail, making all this last-minute planning totally unnecessary.) When you’re looking toward future elections, it’s a good idea to take advantage of options like early voting and absentee ballots (when appropriate) to minimize the scrambling on Election Day.

But for now, make a plan and go cast your ballot.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have to work on Election Day? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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