A new executive order on voting policies sets a series of tasks for federal agencies and also opens the way for a substantial expansion of paid time off for federal employees for voting.
The order tells agencies to evaluate ways in which they can promote voter registration and voter participation through steps such as providing information about how to register and voting options; and to evaluate whether any identity documents issued by the agency to members of the public can be issued in a form that satisfies state voter identification laws, among other responsibilities.
The GSA meanwhile is to modernize and improve vote.gov to make it more accessible and OPM is to recommend strategies “to expand the federal government’s policy of granting employees time off to vote in federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial elections. Such recommendations should include efforts to ensure federal employees have opportunities to participate in early voting.”
Currently, excused absence—paid time off—for voting is allowed only if polls are not open at least three hours either before or after an employee’s regular work hours. In that case 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.
Under the order, OPM also is to recommend strategies to “better support federal employees who wish to volunteer to serve as non-partisan poll workers or non partisan observers, particularly during early or extended voting periods.” Before last November’s elections, OPM encouraged managers to grant excused absence for employees to train and serve as a non-partisan election official, so long as it did not interfere with the agency’s mission needs.