This legislation addresses unintended consequences of provisions adopted in the FY 2020 state budget that will impose staffing challenges to public and private employers alike. We believe its adoption would avoid unnecessary workforce scheduling issues for employers, while preserving all New York’s ability to vote.
The legislature should be commended for making it easier to vote, having adopted 10 day advanced voting, longer primary hours statewide, and, coming soon, far broader access to absentee ballots.
Those changes should accommodate almost all voters, including those with full time jobs. For employees who still cannot find time to vote on their own time, even with these major reforms, longstanding state law (Election Law §3-110) allowed employees two hours off, with pay, to go to the polls.
Unfortunately, this year’s final budget agreement included unnecessary changes to §3-110 that could cause staffing disruptions for private and public sector employers alike. Specifically, it repealed two provisions:
- time off with pay was only available to employees who did not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote; and
- if an employee had four consecutive hours either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of their working shift, or between the end of their working shift and the closing of the polls, they were deemed to have sufficient time outside their working hours to vote.
The budget also increased the available time off from two to three hours.
These provisions apply, at minimum, to separate state and presidential primaries, general elections, any special elections, and village elections.
Given other recent reforms, these changes are simply unnecessary. Importantly, both houses said no to these §3-110 changes in adopting their respective budget resolutions.
We strongly support this legislation that restores the pre-budget §3-110 criteria for time off with pay to vote (while retaining the expanded three hour provision.) It addresses concerns that the new statute creates an entitlement to three hours off, with pay, for any registered voter on any election day regulated under the state Election Law. It reinstates common-sense criteria that has worked well for decades.
Otherwise, employers will have as little as two days’ notice of employee absences, and can only say whether the time off occurs at the beginning or end of the work day. This will require employers to juggle schedules, and call employees into work with little advance notice, and will leave some employers short-staffed.
A recent article in the Albany Times Union highlighted concerns raised by public schools, who envision the challenge of bringing in additional substitute teachers, bus drivers and other staff on Election Day.
But all employers will face the same kind of challenges, with some – hospitals, day care centers, uniformed services – facing even more dire health and safety concerns.
Albany can avoid these unintended consequences without impairing any New Yorker’s ability to vote. This legislation reinstates reasonable criteria for when time off with pay is available to vote, and we urge that it be approved by the full legislature before adjourning next week.