March 13, 2024

Wyden Joins Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Give American Workers Time Off to Vote

According to research, many eligible voters can’t exercise their right to vote because they can’t get time off from work

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said today he has joined 11 Senate colleagues in introducing legislation that would require employers—upon the employee’s request—to provide at least two consecutive hours of paid leave in order to participate in federal elections. 

Under the Time Off to Vote Act, this allotted time could be used to vote at a polling place, return a mail-in ballot, or take time for “other voting-related activities,” such as making technical corrections to a mail-in ballot or driving someone to the polls. 

“People should not have to choose between voting and a paycheck,” Wyden said. “Ensuring every American’s voice is heard—no matter their occupation— is the cornerstone of democracy. We cannot and will not allow the suppression of any American citizen’s precious right to vote. This bill makes it easier for working-class Americans to meaningfully participate in the democratic process and know that their voice makes a difference.”

Oregon has been voting by mail since Wyden was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, and went to all vote-by-mail in 2000. Since then Oregon has consistently had voter turnout rates that are among the highest in the country. In the rest of the country, however, research has shown many eligible American voters still fail to exercise their right to vote because they are unable to get time off from work. According to a poll by Ipsos, around 10 percent of eligible voters cited their inability to take off from work as the reason they did not vote. The Time Off to Vote Act would help to address this issue by providing eligible voters with an allotted period of time to vote and ensuring that taking this time off from work will not affect their benefits.

This legislation is led in the Senate by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). In addition to Wyden, the bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA).

The full text of the legislation is here.