Georgia Employers Required to Give Time Off to Vote?

As the presidential elections nears, have you wondered if employers are required to provide their employees time off to vote? In Georgia, employees receive up to two hours of time off to vote in Georgia.[1] However, certain restrictions are in place. First, the employee must provide reasonable notice to the employer.[2] Second, if the employee’s work hours start two hours after the polls open, or finishes two hours before the polls close, then the employee may not receive time off to vote.[3] Lastly, nothing in the statute indicates that the employer must pay the employee for the time off.[4] Due to time restrictions on voting, some have voiced that election days should be a national holiday to ensure everyone has a chance to vote (wherever they are in the United States) and high turnout rates to the polls.

Precedents from other countries may not completely support this assertion. An example is the South Korean presidential elections. South Korea officially recognizes the presidential elections day as a holiday. However, the turnout has been dropping since the 1980s, where power was given back to the people, only to have risen slightly recently. The latest elections did have a turnout of 75% of eligible voters.[5] However, the elections before only had a turnout of 63%.[6] It is hard to conclude one way or the other concerning the connection between election day being a national holiday and election turnouts.

Georgia employees are guaranteed two hours to vote, and voting is a privilege and a right, one not everyone in the world has. We have come a long way for everyone in this nation to obtain the right to vote. It will be crucial for every individual to exercise their right to vote to make their voices heard.

~Author: Yu Up Lee, Emory School of Law 3rd Year Law Student

[1] O.C.G.A. § 21-2-404, “Each employee in this state shall, upon reasonable notice to his or her employer, be permitted by his or her employer to take any necessary time off from his or her employment to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which such employee is qualified and registered to vote on the day on which such primary or election is held; provided, however, that such necessary time off shall not exceed two hours; and provided, further, that, if the hours of work of such employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least two hours prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided for in this Code section shall not be available. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may absent himself or herself as provided in this Code section.”

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] ELECTION GUIDE DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE & ELECTONS NEWS, http://www.electionguide.org/countries/id/114/ (last visited Nov. 5, 2016)

[6] Id.