Workforce

Biden looks to expand time off for feds to vote

poll workers with mail-in ballots (Trevor Bexon/Shutterstock.com) 

In future election cycles, feds may have expanded time off to vote or work as non-partisan poll workers or observers.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to "make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting," as well as modernize the federal Vote.gov website and extend time off benefits for federal employees to cover voting.

The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance in 2020 noting that that agencies do have discretionary authority to give excused absences to employees for voting, but that "excused absence should rarely be needed" because "polling places throughout the United States are open for extended periods of time, and an increasing number of jurisdictions are offering early voting operations."

Biden's executive order, however, asks for recommendations on how to expand the practice of giving feds time off for voting, including access to early voting.

"It is a priority of my administration to ensure that the federal Government, as the nation's largest employer, serves as a model employer by encouraging and facilitating federal employees' civic participation," the executive order states.

Under the order, the OPM director will work with heads of executive agencies to give recommendations within 200 days on how the federal government can expand time off policies for voting. The executive order also asks agency heads for suggestions for how to support feds who want to work as non-partisan poll workers or voting observers, especially during early or extended voting sessions.

In addition to seeking recommendations on giving feds time off for voting, the executive order also directs agencies to expand voter registration and election information through existing federal websites and social media accounts. It also targets voting rights for two other populations: incarcerated people in federal prisons and active duty military members.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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