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A table for what Military Personnel can and cannot do during political/election season.

Photo by Courtesy File

Be mindful of the rules of political participation

22 Jul 2016 | Chuck Jenks Marine Corps Base Quantico

As the presidential election draws closer, Marines and federal civilian employees should be mindful of the do’s and don’ts of participating in political activity.


The United States presidential election of 2016, constitutionally prescribed to occur on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, will be the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election.


There are four categories of people who are subject to rules and regulations regarding participation in political activity. Those include:
• Military personnel on active duty (includes reservists on orders)
• Military personnel not on active duty (includes reservists at all other times)
• Further restricted civilian personnel (includes advice and consent appointees, career and non-career SES, and also includes people who work in certain positions or at certain agencies including CIA, DIA, NGIA, NSA, NSC)
• Less restricted employees (includes all other civilian employees)


With some exceptions, military personnel on active duty are generally prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity. A partisan political activity means an activity supporting or relating to candidates representing, or issues specifically identified with, national or state political parties and associated or ancillary organizations or clubs.


The actions that are permitted by all people included in the categories:
• Vote
• Promote and encourage voting of others
• Attend a political rally in civilian clothes
• Donate to a campaign and attend political fundraisers when in civilian clothes
• Express political viewpoints outside the workplace
• Write a letter to the editor
• Have a political bumper sticker on the car even if parked on government property


The actions NOT permitted by any person included in the categories:
• Engaging in partisan political activity in a federal workplace, including on one’s personal device
• Soliciting or coercing votes, or other political activity, from a subordinate (for example, email to a subordinate’s email)
• Using government equipment, including email, for partisan political purposes
• Using government time for partisan political purposes
• Soliciting or accepting a campaign contribution at any time whether on or off duty
• Using government title in connection with partisan political purposes
• Placing current political campaign paraphernalia like buttons, bumper stickers or candidate photos in the federal workplace


The following is a short list of examples of violations:
• Reserve field grade officer in uniform sitting in front row of nationally televised partisan political debate
• Providing a color guard to partisan political rally
• Enlisted personnel in uniform singing the National Anthem or God Bless America at partisan political rally
• A military member suggests that a friend like a partisan political group on social media
• Supervisor tells employees who he is voting for
• Employee forwards a funny political email to his coworkers


When engaging in social media, all categories must be aware of the following:
• Political Activity Rules apply in social media. This includes the prohibitions against: fundraising (may not post or link to fundraising pages or events); use of official position, title or authority; and engaging in activity while on federal time/property
• While all personnel can express an opinion about a candidate even on social media, military members cannot urge others to vote for a particular candidate or forward/retweet material from partisan political candidates
• More restricted employees may not forward/retweet material from partisan political candidates


The key take-aways are:
• Set an example. Do not talk politics in the office
• Remind subordinates of the rules and regulations
• Violations by military personnel can be prosecuted under the UCMJ and civilians can be disciplined
• If in doubt – ask your staff judge advocate (SJA) or counsel
• Requests from campaigns for DoD information should be handled in accordance with public affairs guidance
• Encourage and support voting


References:
• DODD 1344.10 Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces
• DODI 1334.1 “Wearing of the Uniform”
• Hatch Act 5 U.S.C. 7321, and 5 C.F.R. Part 734
• Federal Voting Assistance Program http://www.fvap.gov/
• DoD Public Affairs Guidance for Political Campaigns and Elections August 2015
• Office of Special Counsel http://stuffing envelopes, work on
• phone bank, precinct walkwww.osc.gov
• Guidance on Social Media for Military Personnel http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/resource_library/faqs_political_activities_armed_forces.pdf
• Guidance on Social Media for Civilian Personnel https://osc.gov/Resources/FAQ%20Hatch%20Act%20Employees%20and%20Social%20Media%20(revised%2012-18-2015

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