Can You Take Time Off to Vote in Illinois?

Can You Take Time Off to Vote in Illinois?

With the availability of early voting as an option for those who cannot get to the polls on Election Day, it may come as a surprise that most employees can take up to two hours off of work to vote on this Tuesday, November 8th, when the general election is held. Chicago residents may cast their ballot for various federal, state, and county seats at their assigned precinct between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Employers and employees should keep in mind their duties and rights on Election Day. Illinois law not only allows for an employee to take two hours of leave (if the employee meets eligibility criteria), but also requires that the employer treat the leave as paid.

To be eligible for paid leave, the following criteria must be met:

  • The employee must give the employer notice of the need for voting leave prior to Election Day (the Election Code does not specify what type of notice is required).
  • The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent.
  • The employer must permit a two-hour absence during the workday if the employee begins work less than two hours after the opening of the polls (i.e., before 7:59 a.m. for this election) and ends work less than two hours before the closing of the polls (i.e., after 5:01 p.m. for this election). (10 ILCS 5/17-15)

Let’s use an example to demonstrate how to calculate if you are eligible to take leave. An employee who works from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. has two and a half hours to vote in the morning before work, and two hours following work to vote before the polls close at 7:00 p.m. However, be sure to read your employer’s policies and communicate with your supervisors regarding time off for voting, as your workplace policy may be more generous than Illinois law.

In addition to protections for voters, Illinois law provides legal protections for our election judges, who are under pressure this year due to the renewed focus on election fraud. Any person who is appointed as an election judge, after giving his or her employer at least 20 days’ written notice, may be absent from work for the purpose of serving as an election judge. An employer may not penalize employees for their absence when serving as an election judge, but the employers do not have to pay these individuals for their absence. Nonetheless, an employer cannot require an employee to use their earned vacation or paid time off to serve as an election judge.

Employers and employees should take initiative ahead of Election Day to communicate expectations and standards for voting leave and election participation. Furthermore, employers should re-assess current policies to ensure that their voting leave policies are, at a minimum, in compliance with Illinois law.

WTTW's 2022 Voter's Guide contains information about each candidate in federal, state, and county elections and can be found here. For judicial elections, consult Injustice Watch's Cook County Judicial Election Guide here or the Chicago Bar Association's Judicial Voter's Guide here.

This post has been updated from an earlier version found here.

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