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OPM reminds feds of voting flexibilities

As the 2020 presidential election nears, federal employees and managers have been reminded of longstanding policies that ensure they get time off from work to  cast their vote if needed.

In general, voting—albeit in federal, state, county or municipal elections, or in referendums on any community civic matter — is to be done on an employee’s own time before or after work, but the Office of Personnel Management gives agencies authority to grant excused absence to those whose work schedule conflicts with voting hours.

According to a Sept. 29 OPM memorandum, if polls are not open at least three hours before or after an employee’s regular work schedule, “agency leaders 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.”

“Regular work hours” is defined by time of day the employee normally begins and ends his or her typical work day.

The memo notes that because most polling stations are open for extended periods of time, and the number jurisdictions offering early voting is on the rise, excused absences “should rarely be needed.”

However, in those instances when an employee’s polling station is beyond a “normal commuting distance,” and vote by absentee ballot is not permitted, up to one full day is allowed to drive to cast their vote. Annual leave without pay may be requested for additional time off if needed.

The agency is also encouraging federal employees to volunteer to be a non-partisan election official on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

“Federal employees have a history of generously giving their time and talents to make positive contributions to their local communities and through their direct involvement in local community activities, federal employees have become an invaluable resource to our country.” the memo states.

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