On first vote, DC Council approves Leave to Vote, plus an emergency bill to ensure eligible DC students can take leave to vote in June Primary Election

Today, the DC Council unanimously approved on first reading the Leave to Vote Amendment Act of 2020 (B23-0031) that would guarantee up to two hours of paid leave to vote for District employees and two hours as an excused absence for students. The bill will have a second and final vote at the next legislative meeting.

The bill requires employers provide two hours of paid leave for employees to vote. Working with employers, the bill gives employers flexibility to determine if that leave should be taken during early voting or Election Day, based on each employer’s needs. A similar requirement is made for DC students who can vote using an excused absence. The original bill was introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh.

Councilmember Allen also introduced an emergency bill that would allow DC students who are eligible to vote to take two hours as an excused absence to vote as soon as the primary elections this June. Because emergency legislation cannot come with a fiscal impact, the paid leave for employees could not be included.

“In order to stand in line, voters may have to manage their other commitments, such as family care, schoolwork, or a second job. Some voters may not be able to easily take time off to vote and, therefore, are limited in their ability to fully participate in elections,” said Councilmember Allen. “This can contribute to lower voter turnout, particularly in low-income communities, communities of color, and among younger populations. Paid leave to vote removes the choice some voters must make between their livelihoods or other commitments and exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

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