Federal Manager's Daily Report

Arlington, VA - Sept 2020: People line up during first day of early voting for the 2020 Presidential election.

OPM has issued an updated version of its standard election-year guidance on excusing federal employees from work with pay for voting under certain circumstances, this time adding information regarding early voting which is increasingly being used.

A memo to agencies notes that agencies have general authority to provide excused absence, called administrative leave by some, to the extent that such time off does not interfere with agency operations. It noted that general policy is that where the polls are not open at least three hours either before or after an employee’s regular work hours, “an agency may grant a limited amount of excused absence to permit the employee to report for work three hours after the polls open or leave from work three hours before the polls close, whichever requires the lesser amount of time off.”

Employees on alternative work schedules whose regular day off is scheduled for the day polls are open should not be permitted to change their regular day off solely for the purpose of gaining excused absence for voting, it said.

It said that excused absence for voting “should be rarely needed” because “typically, polling places throughout the United States are open for extended periods of time, and an increasing number of jurisdictions are offering early voting options.”

More rare still would be situations in which an employee’s voting place is beyond normal commuting distance and vote by absentee ballot is not permitted; in that case an agency may grant excused absence of up to a full day.

OPM added, “Some employees may find it necessary to vote during this early period because of work requirements on the day of the election. Others, such as those on alternative work schedules, may find it convenient to vote during these early voting periods.”

It said agencies generally should grant excused absence for early voting on a scheduled workday only when the employee will be unable to vote on the day of the election because of official duties such as travel and cannot vote by absentee ballot. “If an employee chooses to vote earlier, but the hours in which polling places are open are shorter than on Election Day, the employee is not eligible for excused absence because the employee has opted to vote at that time,” it said.

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2020 Federal Employees Handbook