The proposed law comes amid national debate about making Election Day a national holiday, with many arguing that working through the day contributes to low voter turnout. Last month, U.S. lawmakers proposed bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday in an effort to increase voter turnout.
Council members Amir Farokhi, Jennifer Ide and Matt Westmoreland created the ordinance to encourage employees to vote. Under Georgia law, employers must allow workers two hours to vote on Election Day. Eight states and Puerto Rico already recognize the day as a holiday.
Westmoreland said he Faroki and Ide got the idea after Sandusky, Ohio, passed a similar ordinance last month. Sandusky swapped the holiday it had given on Columbus Day holiday for its new one on Election Day.
Westmoreland said adding the paid holiday would cost the city an additional $1 million. He also proposed a separate resolution to make the holiday a day of service.
Westmoreland hopes other cities will adopt similar ordinances.
“If Sandusky can impact Atlanta and us other cities, that’s a positive step,” he said.
Andrew Challenger couldn’t say if passing the ordinance would lead to more lenient Election Day policies at businesses, but he hopes it does. Challenger is vice president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a global outplacement and executive coaching firm that surveyed 150 companies last October on their Election Day policies.
According to the survey, human resource managers said they saw a 20 percent increase in the number of requests for days offs on Election Day.
“I think that could encourage employers to say we have so many people asking for time off anyway, we want to make sure they vote,” he said.
Georgia-based companies Coca-Cola and Home Depot have previously said they support employees’ engagement in the election process.
“While we are a nonpartisan company and do not endorse any specific party, we do emphasize the importance of voting,” a spokesman for Coke told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year.
The city’s finance committee is expected to revisit the ordinance at its March 13 meeting.
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