Press Release

Welch Joins Bill to Give Workers Time Off to Vote 

Mar 19, 2024

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, D.C. U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) recently introduced the Time Off to Vote Act, legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), 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.-08). 

“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.” 

“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 every day working people to get to the ballot box and exercise their right to vote.” 

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, 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-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

The Time Off to Vote Act is endorsed by: AFL-CIO; American Civil Liberties Union; 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). 

Senator Welch has advocated for voting rights legislation and support for election workers in the Senate. Earlier this month, Senator Welch helped reintroduce the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to update and restore critical safeguards of the original Voting Rights Act. 

In December, Senator Welch and Representative Pressley introduced the Inclusive Democracy Act, legislation that would end felony disenfranchisement in federal elections, including for the nearly two million individuals currently incarcerated in the United States. Vermont is one of only two states in the nation, besides Maine, that grants persons in prison the right to vote.  

Last year, Senator Welch called for continued support for election officials on the frontlines of our democracy and urged the Senate to pass comprehensive voting rights protection legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. He joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in introducing the Support our Election Workers Act and the Election Workers Protection Act, bills that will respond to growing threats of violence and intimidation that have driven many election workers from their post and created staffing shortages for roles that are essential for functioning of our democracy.    

Read the full text of the bill.