Paid time off to vote? Pa. Rep. Cartwright wants to make it happen | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Employers would have to provide at least two hours of paid time off for federal elections, the NEPA Democrat said

April 12, 2022 7:12 am

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District (Screen capture)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

From the legislative roadblocks thrown up by Republican-controlled state legislatures (including Pennsylvania) to outright voter suppression, there are plenty of impediments that stand in the way of Americans getting to the polls to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote.

One of the biggest, however, may be time. For too many working Americans squeezing in that extra couple of minutes to cast their ballot may mean being late for work, or trying frantically to get home from work to pick up the kids from childcare.

But if one Pennsylvania lawmaker gets his way, American employers would be required to provide at least two hours of paid time off so that their workers can cast their ballots in federal elections.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, teamed with fellow Democratic U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos, of Illinois, Nikema Williams, of Georgia, and Andy Levin, of Michigan, on a bill they’re calling the “Time Off to Vote Act.”

“Voting should not be a luxury that only the well-off can afford,” said Cartwrightwho floated a similar proposal in 2019. “This bill, which ensures that American workers can cast their ballots without risking their paychecks, is an important addition to the critical voting rights legislation passed by the House earlier this year.”

Williams and Levin separately echoed that sentiment.

“This November, Georgia will once again be the center of the political universe. In the last two elections, countless Georgians waited in line for hours to vote. Many waited all day. The Time off to Vote Act will make it easier for working people to exercise their sacred right to vote. Everyone deserves free and fair access to the ballot box, regardless of where they work or their flexibility while on the clock,” Williams, the co-chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, said in a statement.

Levin added that it’s “incredibly important that America’s workers have an unbridled ability to vote in any local, state or federal election. By mandating paid leave on election days, this bill would ensure no worker has to sacrifice their wages or jeopardize their job security to exercise their sacred right to vote.”

Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

More than half of states require businesses to allow their employees some time off to vote, according to GovTrackTwenty-three (No, not you, Pennsylvania) require employers to provide paid time off, according to

And if you don’t think this is a problem, think again.

In 2014, two-thirds of voters said they didn’t show up at the polls because of time constraints, with about a third of voters (35 percent) specifically telling the Pew Research Center that voting conflicted with their work or school schedules.

Voters of color, who are most likely to support Democrats, are among those hardest hit by workplace restrictions, one veteran political observer told the Capital-Star.

Black voters also are more inclined to vote in-person than other voters because of skepticism about their mail-in ballots being counted fairly and accurately, the observer, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly, said.

Thus, Republican efforts to limit Sunday voting in some states, when most people do not work, disproportionately fall on Black voters.

Research by the Brennan Center for Justice, for instance, found that Black voters in Georgia were more inclined to vote on Sunday than were white voters.

Separate research found that “Sunday voters do not seam­lessly trans­ition to other days after cuts are made. For example, when Sunday voting was outlawed in Flor­ida in 2012, Black voters who voted on Sunday in 2008 were espe­cially likely to abstain from voting,” according to the Brennan Center.

Why does that matter?

Just like this year, the 2014 canvass was a mid-term election when voter turnout already is pretty anemic. Republicans romped during that election midway through former President Barack Obama’s second term. As noted above, Black voters and voters of color make up a key part of the Democratic coalition — which makes turnout critical.

And unless something dramatic happens between now and November, congressional Democrats stand a real chance of losing control of one, or both, chambers on Capitol Hill. Democrats will need to close a real enthusiasm gap with Republicans if they hope to retain their majorities.

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

In their statement Monday, Cartwright and his congressional colleagues noted that their proposal had received the backing of a wide array of advocacy groups, including Common Cause and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“All Americans deserve to have their voices heard and votes counted. Especially as some states pass discriminatory voter suppression laws, the Time Off to Vote Act is needed more than ever,” Sylvia Albert, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections, said in a statement.

Adam Lioz, the senior policy counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, reiterated that “as another important federal election fast approaches, Black and Brown Americans face the greatest assault on the freedom to vote since Jim Crow.”

The Democrats’ proposal would be “a strong addition to critical voting rights legislation the House has already passed this year. Congress must stay laser focused on delivering essential protections voters need and deserve, and must pass the full package without delay,” Lioz added.

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a Sept. 15, 2021 Senate hearing to approve subpoenas for a legislative investigation of the 2020 election as panel chair Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, listens. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Our Stuff.
Speaking of voter suppression … the Senate State Government Committee voted 7-4 along party lines on Monday to approve a bill that would ban drop boxes for mail-in ballots, Marley Parish reports.

A Pennsylvania state university is set to begin a study of the working conditions and safety standards for public sector workers in the commonwealth, Stephen Caruso reports.

An internal investigation into the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor is set to begin after a prominent labor talk show host accused the chapter’s new president of workplace harassmentStephen Caruso also reports.

President Joe Biden has unveiled the Department of Justice’s plan to regulate untraceable firearms known as ghost guns, as well as announced his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ExplosivesCapital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa reports.

Left, right and open seat, from our partners at City & State Pa., here’s your comprehensive list of every Pa. state lawmaker facing opposition during the May 17 primary.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym wants to put the spotlight on livability issues during debate on the next city budget, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: This Pennsylvania House bill would make the roads safer for bicyclists and motorists alike, a Philadelphia-based bicycle advocate writes. And slavery never really ended because the 13th Amendment still allows it, opinion regular, Michael Coard, of the Philadelphia Tribune, writes.

(Image via

The Inquirer explains why Philadelphia will start testing its sewage for COVID-19.

And the state’s largest city has reinstated its indoor mask mandate amid rising cases, WHYY-FM reports.

Allegheny County Councilmember Thomas Duerr says censure from his colleagues would be a ‘badge of honor,’ the Tribune-Review reports.

PennLive explains why former President Donald Trump’s endorsement could make the difference for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz.

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal illness for deer, has been found in Lancaster CountyLancasterOnline reports.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capitol Bureau profiles Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Conor Lamb.

Luzerne County is set to name its new county manager — who will not have a contract, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Pennsylvanians will now get a full year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth, WESA-FM reports.

Corry, Pa.’s historic downtown district has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, GoErie reports.

PoliticsPa wonders whether GOP LG candidates Jeff Coleman and Chris Frye are the future of Pennsylvania conservatism.

Voters living with disabilities will face new ballot restrictions headed into the 2022 midterms, reports.

Budget-writers in the U.S. House are eyeing June markup sessions on the 2023 budget bills, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House come in at 11 a.m. The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today. And today would be an excellent day to spike your breakfast smoothie. It’s gonna be Rallypalooza in the Big House.
9 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally to end closed primaries
9:30 a.m., Capitol Rotunda: Start Strong PA Child Care rally
10 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for PHEAA phunding
10:30 a.m., Ryan Building Steps: House and Senate presser on anti-blight bills
11 a.m., Main Rotunda: Carpenters Tax Fraud Action Day
11:15 a.m., Soldiers Grove: GOP Sens. Doug Masrtriano and Devlin Robinson on Law Enforcement Recovery grants
11:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: Pharmacists rally to make vaccination coverage permanent
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: College professors call for more support for higher education
1 p.m., Main Rotunda: Pa. Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators on promoting teaching in Pa.
2 p.m., Capitol Steps: Sen. Maria Collett and Bridget Kosierowski announce the Home Care Caucus to support home-based care providers

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Brad Roae
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Christina Sappey
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Anthony DeLuca
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Craig Williams
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Joe Hamm
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Regina Young
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Josh Kail
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Anthony Williams
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Patty Kim
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep Donna Bullock
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. John Galloway
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Gina Curry
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. K.C. Tomlinson
5:30 p.m.: Reception for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Chris Quinn
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Peter Schweyer
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Tim Kearney
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a mind-bogglingly offensive $54,000 today. This may be a new high — or low, depending upon one’s perspective.

As of this writing, Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today..

Heavy Rotation
Here’s the first new music from Pink Floyd in three decades. Go pay to download this (I did. It’s $1.29 on iTunes): It’s ‘Hey, Hey Rise Up.’ The proceeds benefit Ukraine relief efforts.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Our sentimental favorites, the Winnipeg Jetsgot past the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Monday night. The Jets are 2-0-1 in their last three games.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.