Skip to content

Hirono Leads Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Give Workers Time Off to Vote

~ Research has shown that many eligible voters still fail to exercise their right to vote because they are unable to get time off from work ~

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) led 11 of her colleagues in introducing the Time Off to Vote Act, legislation that would require employers—upon the request of the employee—to provide at least two consecutive hours of paid leave in order to vote in federal elections. This allotted time can be used to vote at a polling place, return a mail-in ballot, or take time for “other voting-related activities,” such as curing a ballot or driving someone to the polls. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA).

“Voting is essential to our democracy and all eligible voters deserve to be able to exercise their fundamental right to have their voices heard,” said Senator Hirono. “I am proud to introduce the Time Off to Vote Act, legislation that will empower more eligible voters to participate in our democracy. As we continue working to protect voting rights and defend democracy, this bill will help to expand voter participation, especially in underrepresented communities.”

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on voting rights, Senator Hirono asked Sophie Lin Lakin, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, about the Time Off to Vote Act. Video of their exchange is available here.

While Americans voted in record numbers during the 2020 presidential election, research has shown that many eligible 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, about 10 percent of eligible voters cited being unable 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.

“Voting should not be a luxury that only the well-off can afford,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08), who, along with U.S. Representative Nikema Williams (GA-05), introduced companion legislation in the House. “This bill reaffirms our commitment to making voting more accessible to all by ensuring that American workers do not have to choose between casting their ballots or receiving a full paycheck. This important legislation will make it easier for working people to exercise their sacred right to vote, and I thank Sen. Hirono for her leadership on this bill in the Senate.”

This legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by 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), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“The Time Off to Vote Act would allow Californians to make their voices heard without the added burden of missing work or pay,” said Senator Butler. “This bill would protect people trying to engage in the democratic process, despite far-right efforts to curtail voting rights and make access to the ballot more difficult.”

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and no American should have to choose between voting and keeping their job or paying their bills,” said Senator Kaine. “By passing the Time Off to Vote Act, we can help protect every American’s right to make their voice heard.”

“As California’s former Secretary of State, I saw firsthand the impact our state’s time off to vote policy had on increasing voter turnout and reducing fears of employer backlash,” said Senator Padilla. “It’s past time we eliminate barriers that prevent Americans from exercising their fundamental right to vote, particularly as so many legislatures block commonsense measures to expand access to the ballot, including vote-by-mail.”

“It’s unthinkable that voters must often choose between their job and their fundamental right to participate in our democratic process,” said Senator Welch. “The Time Off to Vote Act will make it easier for everyday, working people to get to the ballot box and exercise their right to vote.”

“Our democracy is better off when everyone can participate. Getting time off from work should never be a hurdle for Americans trying to vote and make their voices heard,” said Senator Casey (D-PA). “I’m proud to join Senator Hirono and Representative Cartwright to introduce the Time Off to Vote Act to increase voter participation and ultimately strengthen our democracy.”

“Voting is foundational to our democracy, but there are many barriers to casting a ballot, including the challenge of taking time off from work to get to the polls.  Workers should be guaranteed leave to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Durbin.  “That’s why I’m joining Senator Hirono in introducing the Time Off to Vote Act to ensure that employers provide paid leave for workers to cast their ballots.”

“Our democracy is strongest when everyone’s voice is heard,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The Time Off to Vote Act is commonsense legislation to ensure no American has to choose between missing a paycheck and exercising their right to vote.”

The Time Off to Vote Act is endorsed by: AFL-CIO; American Civil Liberties Union; American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote); Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs; Autism Society of America; Blinded Veterans Association; Brennan Center for Justice; Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation; Common Cause; Communication Workers of America (CWA); Declaration for American Democracy Coalition; Demos; Disability Victory; Diverse Elders Coalition; Epilepsy Foundation; FairVote Action; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; League of Conservation Voters; Let America Vote/End Citizens United Action Fund; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; NALEO Educational Fund; National Disability Institute; National Hispanic Council on Aging; New Disabled South; NextGen America; Patent Office Professional Association (POPA); Progressive Turnout Project; RespectABILITY; Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund; The Arc of the United States; Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); United Auto Workers Union (UAW); United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW); and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA).

“Americans live extremely busy lives, and voting must continue to be free, fair, and accessible so we can fully have our voices heard and votes counted. Especially as some states pass discriminatory voter suppression laws, the Time Off to Vote Act is needed more than ever as part of a package of reforms to meet voters where they are,” said Sylvia Albert, Democracy and Representation Policy Counsel at Common Cause. “We commend Senator Hirono for her leadership to protect and strengthen the freedom to vote to ensure ‘We the People’ won’t face barriers at the ballot box.”

“The League of Conservation Voters applauds Senator Hirono for reintroducing the Time Off to Vote Act to ensure every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote, regardless of their work schedule and without fear of retaliation or lost wages,” said Doug Lindner, LCV Senior Director of Judiciary and Democracy. “To protect our environment and democracy, we need to protect every voter’s freedom to cast their ballot.”

“One of our most fundamental freedoms is the ability to participate in the democratic process. But too often, Americans are forced to choose between voting and earning a full paycheck,” said Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund. “The Time Off to Vote Act is long overdue legislation that will make the ballot box accessible to all Americans without creating a financial burden. We applaud Senator Hirono for her continued leadership in ensuring our democracy is accessible to all.”

“SMART members are keenly aware of how important it is for working people to participate in the political process. As union workers, we use our votes to advocate for our jobs, our families and the well-being of working Americans everywhere,” said SMART General President Michael Coleman. “The Time Off to Vote Act ensures workers can vote without fearing for their livelihoods. It is a key step towards expanding our nation’s representative democracy, and all of us at SMART call for the legislation’s swift passage into law.”

“There is no more important civic activity in this country than voting,” said Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). “Casting a ballot is the civic duty that lays the foundation for our democracy. If we can’t afford to take time off to participate, our democracy is diminished. While there may be more than one way to vote, the act of voting is not so easy for everyone, especially those in working families. We thank Senator Hirono for her continued commitment to protecting our democracy, as evidenced by this bill which recognizes the need to increase the opportunities for workers to participate in our democracy by providing paid time off to vote.”

“Black people and other communities of color have been pivotal in enriching our democracy, consistently pushing our society toward a more perfect union despite facing significant barriers to voting. These communities are often placed in an unfair position, having to choose between their fundamental right to participate in the democratic process and their economic survival. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law proudly endorses the Time Off to Vote Act, a vital bill that mandates paid voting leave in federal elections. This Act addresses the intolerable decisions that voters in these communities have been forced to make, ensuring that everyone can exercise their right to vote without sacrificing their livelihood,” said Alex Ault, Policy Council for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Voting is a sacred rite that we cannot take for granted,” said Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) President James Slevin. “Senator Hirono’s Time Off to Vote Act helps expand voting access and removes a significant barrier people face as they seek to cast their ballots, especially for individuals performing shift work or who may work irregular hours. Thank you to Senator Hirono for advancing this important effort.”

"In order to fully live up to our ideals, we must ensure that every American is empowered to exercise their right to vote,” said Alex Morgan, President of the Progressive Turnout Project. “Senator Hirono’s Time Off to Vote Act ensures that Americans are granted the right to take time off of work to exercise their most fundamental right as a citizen. Progressive Turnout Project is proud to support this legislation and we’re grateful to Senator Hirono for her leadership on this issue.”

“The Time Off to Vote Act introduced this week by Senator Hirono will allow more of our veterans with sight loss to exercise their constitutional right and duty to vote,” said Timothy Hornik, National Executive Director of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA). “Our population is often confronted with transportation challenges in accessing voting sites and voting systems that this legislation will mitigate, resulting in greater veteran interest in the political process and better voting turnouts in our stakeholder communities.”

“The right to vote is sacred in a democracy. That means our laws and policies must make voting more accessible, not less,” said Laura Williamson, Senior Policy Advisor at Democracy and Voting Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center & SPLC Action Fund. “The Time Off to Vote Act is a sensible reform that will help ensure working people have the time they need to cast a ballot, and to make their voices heard in our democracy. We are grateful to Senator Hirono for her leadership in introducing this bill and look forward to working together to move it forward.”

“National Disability Institute strongly supports the Time Off to Vote Act. All workers should have the opportunity to participate in voting and related activities. For workers with disabilities, who often earn less and face higher living costs, having real economic freedom means being able to work and engage in civic activities without barriers and with full participation. This Act ensures that everyone can exercise their rights and have a say in shaping the future of our country and the communities in which we live,” said Thomas Foley, Executive Director of the National Disability Institute.

“The health of our democracy depends on the ability of everyone to participate. But too many people are forced to choose between their vote and their paychecks – a modern day poll tax,” said Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME. “The Time Off to Vote Act can eliminate this barrier to the ballot box for countless working families. By providing two hours of paid leave to vote in a federal election, this legislation will allow more citizens to raise their voice and exercise their most basic right as Americans. On behalf of AFSCME’s 1.4 million members, I am grateful to Sen. Hirono for her leadership and enthusiastically support this legislation.” 

“Voters with disabilities often face many barriers when attempting to exercise their right to vote,” said Angel Heinz, Public Policy Manager at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “The Time of to Vote Act seeks to improve election day accessibility, which is extremely important to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation community. Voters that live with disability deserve the right to cast a private and independent vote.”

“No American should have to forgo the sacred act of voting or volunteering in our democratic process because they can’t get time off work,” said Randi Weingarten, President of AFT. “Sen. Mazie Hirono’s Time Off to Vote Act is rooted in an understanding of the lives of working people.  guaranteeing paid time off to vote or volunteer makes our democracy a priority. Almost every other industrialized democracy makes Election Day a holiday or mandates paid time off to go to the polls – it’s time the United States do the same.”

The full text of the legislation is available here.

Senator Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been a long-time champion of voting rights legislation and protections. In September 2023, Senator Hirono joined her colleagues on National Voter Registration Day in introducing a resolution recognizing September as “National Voting Rights Month.” In 2022, Senator Hirono introduced the Election Worker Protection Act, comprehensive legislation which would provide states with the resources to recruit and train election workers and ensure these workers’ safety, while also instituting federal safeguards to shield election workers from intimidation and threats. In 2022, Senator Hirono also introduced the Youth Voting Rights Act, comprehensive legislation to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and expand youth access to voting.