A group of House Democrats introduced Monday a bill that would guarantee workers time off to vote in federal elections. Other voting rights initiatives have failed.
The Time Off to Vote Act introduced byRepresentatives Nikema Williams(D-Georgia), Matt Cartwright(D-Pennsylvania), Cheri bustos (D–Illinois), and Andy Levin, (D–Michigan), asked that employers give their employees at most two hours off work to vote on election day.
Many states don’t have any regulations that mandate workers to vote. that do guarantee that rightMany only require that workers receive unpaid time off. Workers may not be financially able to benefit from the benefit.
This bill would normalize regulations for paid leave across the country, which is a crucial step towards expanding voting access. It requires that the paid time off be separate from workers’ existing benefits.
“No one should be forced to choose between earning their full paycheck or participating in our democracy,” Williams said in a statement. “In the last two elections, countless Georgians waited in line for hours to vote. Many waited for hours. The Time off to Vote Act will make it easier for working people to exercise their sacred right to vote.”
For months, Democrats have tried — and failed — to pass legislation to protect voting rights. The issue was highlighted by President Joe Biden in his first year of office. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) killed Democrats’ hope of being able to pass sweeping anti-corruption election bills like the For the People Act, which voting rights advocates have said are crucial to protecting democracy.
Although the Time Off to Vote Act had been introduced in previous year, it has never been put to a vote. Proposals like making Election Day a federal holiday also aim to ensure that work isn’t a barrier to being able to vote, but about a quarter of workers don’t receiveAccording to a federal survey 2018, federal employees get days off for federal holidays.
People who are unable to obtain time off to vote are faced with a major obstacle: it makes it difficult or impossible to cast their ballots. According to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos Poll conducted after the 2020 election waiting in long voting linesThe top two barriers to voting include not having the time off and not having the time. Republicans creating stricter guidelinesSome people may not be able to vote for mail-in ballot access.
These are the barriers affect Black and Latinx voters disproportionately. Racist voter suppression policies result in fewer polling places in predominantly Black or Latinx neighborhoods. This means that people in these areas often have to wait for hours to cast their vote. Data shows that Black and Latinx voters have to wait approximately 45 percent longer than whites to vote.
Voters poorer neighborhoods are also more likely to face long lines while waiting to vote — and for many low-income people, this is an impassable hurdle. Some workers aren’t allowed to take time off to vote, and those that have the option of taking unpaid time off often can’t afford to do so, especially when they may have to wait hours in line.
The Time Off to Vote Act may help increase voting access, but two hours may not be enough. places like GeorgiaSome workers waited for up to 10 hours to vote in the 2020 presidential elections in,