Give Your Staff Time Off to Vote

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, half the states have passed new laws in 2024 that impacted voter rights and ballot access.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, half the states have passed new laws in 2024 that impacted voter rights and ballot access.

As institutions of democracy, libraries must embrace their critical role in providing election-related information, tools, and resources to encourage eligible community members to exercise their right to vote. As library leaders work to make Election Days more accessible to the public, it is important for boards and directors to remember that staff may also need time during the workday to vote. 

Only eight states are fully vote-by-mail states. In states where Election Day is only one day or early voting is limited, making time for staff to vote is important. While there are many barriers to voting, including inaccessible polling places, restrictive voter ID laws, and threats of violence on and around Election Day, one of the most common barriers remains the lack of time to vote. It prevents many people, including library staff, from casting their ballot.

Public and academic libraries are in a position to help address this problem. Libraries should evaluate their policies around time off for voting to ensure that staff members can access the ballot without undue obstacles or hardships. Twenty-nine states already require employers to provide time off for voting. However, not all library directors and board members are aware of this requirement or are wary of enforcing it, especially in states where time off for voting is not mandatory. 

For an undervalued and underpaid profession, libraries should especially consider giving paid time off to employees who want to vote in both primary and general elections. Providing paid leave to vote is not only important in protecting our democracy through participation, but it also prioritizes and supports the overall well-being of library employees. It gives them a way to participate in civic engagement without fear of losing income. 

You may be concerned about providing time off to vote on a weekday. There are some steps that you can take to ensure that your library has enough coverage on Election Day. First, create a policy for providing time off for library staff members. Nonprofit Vote offers a free model policy that you can adapt to your library’s needs. You can also have employees sign up for specific time slots (accounting for travel times and long lines) to vote so that you can make sure that there is enough staff at the library. Finally, if possible, schedule minimal programming on Election Day to encourage all eligible community members to go to polling places to exercise their right to vote. 

Voter turnout is important to maintaining our democracy, especially during times of heightened political polarization.This isn’t just for our patrons and community members; it is also for the staff who work hard to support open, free, and fair elections.