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Federal employees can take part in political activities, with some guidelines

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE Colo. -- The election season is now in high gear, and this has already been an exciting race among both the Republican and Democratic candidates. As we get out and show our support for the candidate of our choice, we must remember that there are specific laws and regulations governing what we, as federal employees, can and cannot do.

The Hatch Act governs political activities of federal employees. Also Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the U.S. Air Force, regulates the political activities of Air Force members. For example, government employees -- both civilian and military -- may not engage in political activities in a government facility and must avoid any implication that the Air Force endorses or supports their participation in the activity. The listing below contains examples of both permissible and prohibited activities for civilian federal employees and Air Force military members. However, items cited below are not all-inclusive. Before engaging in political activity not addressed in this article, seek guidance from the installation legal office.

Air Force military members may:

Register to vote, vote, and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces
Make monetary contributions to a political organization or political committee favoring a particular candidate or slate of candidates
Attend political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform
Join a political club and attend its meetings when not in uniform, but may not serve in an official capacity in a partisan political club
Display a political sticker on the member's personal vehicle, or wear a political button when not in uniform and not on duty
Write a personal letter, not for publication, expressing preference for a specific political candidate or cause, if the action is not part of an organized letter-writing campaign on behalf of a partisan political cause or candidate

Air Force military members may not:

Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, to affect its course or outcome, to solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or to require or solicit political contributions from others
Be a candidate for, or hold civil office, except within very limited non-partisan exceptions (See the installation's judge advocate general before seeking any office, even as a school board member)
Allow, or cause to be published, partisan political articles signed or authorized by the member for soliciting votes for or against a partisan political party or candidate
Speak before a partisan political gathering of any kind for promoting a partisan political party or candidate, even when not in uniform
Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate of a partisan political party or candidate
Solicit or otherwise engage in fund-raising activities in federal offices or facilities, including military reservations, for a partisan political cause or candidate
March or ride in a partisan political parade, even when not in uniform
Participate in any organized effort to provide voters with transportation to the polls, if the effort is organized by or associated with a partisan political party or candidate
Make campaign contributions to a partisan political candidate (If a joint account holder makes contribution from the joint account they share with you, that contribution may be attributable to you as well)
Use contemptuous words against the President of the United States or other elected officials outlined in Article 88, Uniform Code of Military Justice
Display a large political sign, banner, or poster on the top or side of a member's personal vehicle (as distinguished from a political sticker)

Civilian employees may:

Be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
Register to vote and vote
Assist in voter registration drives
Express personal opinions about candidates or issues
Attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
Sign nominating petitions
Campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections (but not in the federal workplace)
Hold office in political clubs or parties

Civilian employees may not:

Use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election
Collect political contributions
Engage in political activity while on duty (defined as an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group)
Wear political buttons while on duty
Be a candidate for public office partisan elections
Solicit political contributions from the general public

Even though federal employees may be restricted in some of the things they can do to support a particular political candidate, they should all become aware of the issues and where candidates stand on them. By becoming better informed, they can ensure that those for whom they vote are the best candidates to represent their interests.