ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
We are well into the 2016 election year, so it’s helpful to
review the rules pertaining to civilian employees under the Hatch Act, as well
as the rules pertaining to military members.
Whether you are Team Trump or Team Clinton, these rules are essential to
know in order to avoid the negative consequences of violations.
The basic rule is that an employee may not engage in
political activity while on duty, in a government room or building, while
wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle.
Clothing and Pictures in the Workplace
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from wearing partisan political
buttons or other such items or displaying partisan political pictures, signs,
stickers, or badges while on duty or at work. This includes pictures of
candidates, even when the picture doesn’t say anything like “Vote for X.”
Bumper Stickers on Cars
An employee may place a partisan political bumper sticker on his personal
vehicle and park that vehicle in a federal parking lot or garage. Employees
must be cautioned, though, against displaying other partisan political
materials, or even bumper stickers, in such a way that makes the vehicle appear
to be a “campaign mobile.” Also, on Robins AFB, AFI 31-204/RAFB
Supplement, paragraph 4.2.15, prohibits the on-base display of bumper stickers
or other signs or paraphernalia that embarrass or disparage the President of
the United States.
A Federal employee may write a blog or a post on a site such as Facebook
on which he or she expresses support or opposition to partisan political
candidates and parties, but subject to the following limitations. While
Federal employees are not prohibited from expressing their opinions, they are
prohibited from engaging in political activity while on duty or in a building
occupied by Federal employees in the discharge of official duties.
Federal employees are prohibited from these actions while on duty.
However, doing so outside of work and in another location would not
violate the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act also prohibits federal employees from using their official
authority or influence to affect the result of an election. Therefore, they
should not identify their official titles or use their statuses as federal
employees to bolster the opinions concerning political parties, candidates, or
groups that they post on their blogs/Facebook.
Supervisors who are “friends” with their subordinates may advocate for or
against a political party, group, or candidate for public office on their
Facebook pages (off-duty, of course). While supervisors may not use their
official authority to influence an election result, this would not violate the
Hatch Act, as long as the supervisor’s statements are directed at all of his
Facebook “friends.” This would violate the Hatch Act if the supervisor
specifically directed the comments toward his subordinates, or to a subset of
“friends” that includes subordinates, by sending a Facebook “message.”
In this situation, the supervisor is purposefully targeting
subordinates with the message.
Do not use the Government email system to send or forward emails
supporting or opposing a candidate!
Different than civilian employees, military members do not
fall under the Hatch Act. Restrictions on military members are established in DOD
Directive 1344.10 and AFI 51-902. These
restrictions do not apply to the Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP). FVAP
is specifically authorized by Congress and both the DOD Directive and AFI
specifically authorize military members to participate fully in it.
Military Members May:
Register to vote, vote, and express a personal opinion on
political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Air Force
- Promote/encourage others to vote, so long as official
authority or influence is not used to interfere with the outcome of any
Join/be active members of a political party or club (cannot
wear military uniform or be officers/sponsors).
Attend political rallies, fundraisers and meetings as
spectators when not in uniform and when no reasonable inference of official
support of the event can be drawn (cannot speak at political events).
Serve as an election official only if that service is not
as a representative of a political party, does not interfere with the
performance of military duties, is performed when not in uniform, and the SECAF
has given prior approval.
Military members can sign and circulate nominating
petitions if the signing does not obligate you to engage in partisan political
activity and is done as a private citizen.
Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing your
personal views on public issues or political candidates, if writing is not part
of an organized letter-writing campaign.
If the letter identifies you as being on active duty, the letter should
clearly state that the views expressed are yours only and not those of the
Department of Defense (rule also applies to social media such as Twitter and
Make monetary contributions to a political organization,
party, or committee favoring a particular candidate, subject to limitations
under Federal law.
- Display a political bumper sticker on a private vehicle
(but not a large political sign, banner, or poster).
Wear a political button or t-shirt when not in uniform,
performing military duties, or under circumstances that could give rise to an
appearance of endorsement.
Military Members Must Not:
Participate in partisan political fundraising activities,
rallies, conventions (including making speeches), management of campaigns, or
Use official authority to interfere with an election, to
solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or to solicit political
Serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of
a political club.
Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any
gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate or cause.
Participate in any radio, television, or other program or
group discussion as an advocate of a partisan political party, candidate, or
- Perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political
committee or candidate during a campaign, on an election day, or after an
election day during the process of closing out a campaign.
- March/ride in a political parade.
- Display a partisan political sign at your residence if you
live on base (including privatized housing).
Participate, while in uniform, in any activity such as unofficial
public speeches, interviews, marches, etc which may imply Air Force sanction of
the cause for which the demonstration or activity is conducted.
- Sell tickets for, or otherwise actively promote, partisan
political dinners and similar fundraising events.
- Engage in the public or organized recruitment of others to
become partisan candidates for nomination or election to office.
When in doubt about the rules surrounding political participation for your
Airmen and civilian employees, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Ethics
Counselors at 78th ABW/JA. We are
located in Bldg. 708, and are happy to assist in answering any questions you