Record turnout a concern, federal employees should be allotted two hours additional time as precaution
Northern Virginia Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA) and Tom Davis (R-VA) wrote today to ask the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to give federal employees two extra hours of excused absence to vote on Election Day.
“Given the record turnout projected, traffic congestion in our region and the possibility of voting machine difficulties as many localities transition from electronic to paper ballots, we request OPM increase by two hours the window of excused leave time federal employees have to vote on November 4th,” said Moran. “Every vote counts, and every federal employee should have the opportunity to cast a ballot on Election Day.”
“This may be the election of a lifetime in terms of voter interest and turnout,” said Davis. “Federal employees have a huge stake in elections, and it’s only fitting their employers make sure they can cast their ballots. Without this, a lot of federal employees will have to choose between working when they’re supposed to work and voting. And that’s not right.”
Current OPM rules dictate that if the polls are not open at least 3 hours either before or after an employee’s regular work hours, an agency may grant a limited amount of excused absence that will permit the employee to report for work 3 hours after the polls open or leave from work 3 hours before the polls close, whichever requires the lesser amount of time off. Employees’ “regular work hours” are determined by the time of day the employee normally arrives at and departs from work.
For example, in Virginia polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Employees scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. would not be eligible for excused absence since, under OPM’s rules, they would have three hours before work in which to vote. Those who work 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. would be eligible to receive a half-hour of excused absence.
Following is the text of the letter to OPM:
October 30, 2008
Michael W. Hager
Office of Personnel Management
1900 E. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20415
Dear Director Hager:
We are writing with an urgent request to increase the number of hours allowed under the current excused absence policy for federal employees.
As you know, voter turnout in national elections has been on the rise in recent years, and many predict record turnout during next week’s election. In addition to a record turnout, changes in federal and state election law can be expected to lengthen the amount of time it takes to process each vote. Combined, these two factors could generate longer lines at polling sites and delays that exceed the three hour excused absence time federal employees are currently allowed to take.
Given the importance of this election, the importance of voting in our democracy, and longer commuting times in general, we are concerned that federal workers may face the prospect of not voting or violating current federal leave requirements. Additional time for excused absence beyond the current 3 hours would go a long way toward relieving federal employees of this dilemma.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to your prompt response.
James P. Moran and Thomas M. Davis III,
Members of Congress