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If you have a job that sometimes involves travel or long high pressure days , is it legal for your boss to not allow you time off to vote?

I would be interested in the situation in the UK and US.

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    You might want to try this question on workplace.stackexchange.com – Mikel Urkia Apr 23 '15 at 15:52
  • In the US, yes, they have to accommodate you getting to vote. If you are traveling, however, it's on you to get a absentee ballot. – user1530 Apr 23 '15 at 16:00
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    @Philipp well, hence it only being a comment. :) After googling, it appears there are no federal laws in the US for this. However, most (?) states have enacted laws and regulations to address it. – user1530 Apr 23 '15 at 18:08
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    Oh, here's a good summary of it on a state-by-state level: findlaw.com/voting-rights-law.html – user1530 Apr 23 '15 at 18:09
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    In Spain, yes, up to four hours. – orique Mar 29 '16 at 17:08
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In the United States, I think the best answer here is it depends. As @DA mentioned in the comments, there is no federal law regarding this particular aspect of voting rights. The states (some of them anyway) have stepped up, and I found a pretty useful link here that summarizes the current patchwork of laws.

NB: It looks like that page was made for the 2012 election, so I am taking those summaries to be accurate as of that timeframe.

I think the best summary of the current status of whether or not your boss is required to allow you to "take off" to go vote comes from here:

I'm scheduled to work on Election Day. Do I have a right to take time off from work to vote?

Not necessarily. Depending on where you live, the answer may be "yes, definitely," "no, not really," or "it depends." This is an area of the law dealt with on a state-by-state basis, even during the national presidential elections held every four years. So your right to vote during work time depends on what your state law says.

Looking through the list from the first link, it looks like there's a few broad categories of the types of laws states have (or failed to have) enacted:

1. No specific law requiring time off to vote. (21 total)

Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota*, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia

I am including North Dakota in this list, even though the law "encourages employers to [allow time off of work to vote]" because encourging something is wholly distinct from requiring it.

2. Employees who begin their work day less than X hours after polls open and finish less than X hours before polls close are entitled to Y hours leave to vote (25 total)

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

It should be noted here that each of these states' laws are worded somewhat differently with somewhat different restrictions. For instance, in Tennessee the employee must request leave by noon the day before Election Day.

3. Employees may take X hours off to go vote (2 Total)

Kentucky, Minnesota

In Minnesota, those hours are specified to be in the 'morning'.

This being the United States, there are some notable outliers.

Arkansas

Employers must create schedules so that each employee will have the opportunity to vote.

That's seems fair enough to me.

Massachusetts

No employee of a manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishment must work during the first two hours after the polls open if the employee applied for a leave of absence during this period.

Apparently the rest of us are out of luck if our employers don't want us to vote.

Ohio

Employers cannot fire or threaten to fire an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote. Paid only for salaried employees.

And (my personal favorite)...

Puerto Rico

Election day is a legal holiday in Puerto Rico and most employees have the day off work. Employers running a business in operation on election day, however, must establish shifts allowing employees to go to the polls between 8am and 3pm.

In Regards To Travel

It is my impression that none of the states have laws on the books that take this into account. So while you may be entitled to have the morning off to go to the polls, you may be physically unable to reach your polling station depending on where your employer had you travel to on the day prior to election day. You still have a right to vote, but I would consult your local board of elections and acquire an absentee ballot in order to have your voice heard.

Additionally, many jurisdictions include no-excuse early voting, or in the case of WA, OR and CO, offer all mail-in voting where a ballot is automatically mailed to all eligible voters and there are no traditional polling precincts. The link above provides a color-coded state by state map depicting the current status of each state in regards to absentee and early voting (thanks for the comment from reirab).

Practically, could an employer prevent an employee from voting?

As was noted in the comments, I believe the answer here is yes it is possible. I think from the vast diversity of employers out there and, judging from the fact that many employers urge (coerce?) their employees to vote a certain way certainly implies that the will to affect outcomes of elections is there for employers. However, the possible downsides of doing this to an employee (which include a devout pummeling in the court of public opinion) would no doubt deter all but the most ardent employers from actively preventing employees from voting which, as noted by others, would be minimally effective at best.

That being said and this being the US, we know it has already happened. I stumbled across this series of letters which describe a sawmill owner's efforts to disenfranchize both black and white employees of his from voting for the "radical ticket" in South Carolina, 1868.

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    Thank you for this. As a matter of practicality I assume you have to apply for an absentee ballot some time in advance so that doesn't work unless you have plenty of warning of the travel. – Lembik Apr 23 '15 at 22:07
  • What about employees that cannot leave work without damage to it? For instance those under medical experiments or testing Mars/orbital conditions in a spacecraft simulator etc? – Anixx Apr 23 '15 at 22:13
  • I wish the rest of the country took Puerto Rico's approach. – Bobson Apr 24 '15 at 13:10
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    @Anixx - That's when you get an absentee ballot. Those are unlikely to come up out of nowhere the day before election day. – Bobson Apr 24 '15 at 13:11
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    If your boss pulled some such trick to prevent employees from voting once -- whether because he's afraid they'll vote for the wrong person or he just doesn't want to lose the work hours -- everyone would then know and the next year you get an absentee ballot. It's a trick that could really only be pulled once or twice. And besides, if your boss is such a jerk that he schemes to lock you in the office so you can't vote, he's probably a jerk in other ways too, and you should be looking for another job. – Jay Apr 27 '15 at 22:38
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Since polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm and it is forbidden to work that long, certainly without a break, it's not clear that any specific rule is needed. If your boss really demands your presence from 7am to 10pm, he or she is probably already doing something illegal.

Furthermore, since you can easily vote by post or by proxy, it could be argued that work obligations do not threaten your voting rights per se. Work is in fact cited on the website as one of the reasons you can use to apply to vote by proxy.

  • I don't understand this answer. I am talking about two scenarios. a) Your boss sends you away to work from another site. That is you can't physically access the polling booth where you are registered or b) You are planning on voting after work but your boss suddenly announces you have to work late. You have to register at least 11 working days before election day to vote by post so your boss can just announce the travel after that date has passed. – Lembik Apr 26 '15 at 13:15
  • Also, you can have a break of half an hour or even a whole hour and still not be able to get to the polling booth and back so I don't think working time regulations help here either. – Lembik Apr 26 '15 at 13:30
  • Finally, those working time regulations are full of loop-holes in the UK. See gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours/… – Lembik Apr 26 '15 at 13:32
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    @Lembik The loopholes pertain to the weekly total, not the daily maximum/break requirements. But it's certainly possible to think of many things that make voting more difficult. A simpler and more common one would simply be working far away from your place of residence for a week at a time (think lorry drivers, construction workers, etc.). At the same time, you can easily see why requiring employers to pay a trip back home or free their employees for a day to come back and vote would be quite an extraordinary requirement. – Relaxed Apr 26 '15 at 14:36
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    Note that in many other European countries, voting takes place on Sunday and employers have to inform employees of their work hours in advance in any case (i.e. not as a measure to prevent voting manipulation but as a basic right). Either of these seem like a much simpler solution to this problem as well. – Relaxed Apr 26 '15 at 17:18
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So far as I know, there is no obligation on a UK employer to allow an employee time off to vote.

There is a legal obligation on employers to allow employees time off to perform certain "public duties", notably jury service. See this gov.uk link for more: https://www.gov.uk/time-off-work-public-duties

However voting is not a public duty. Furthermore the legal obligation above does not apply to all employers in all circumstances.

I speak of the law as it currently is. Whether it should be different is a separate question.

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