MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. --
The 2020 Presidential election season is in full swing. Even though the official Election Day is on November 3rd, at least 45 million Americans have already voted via mail-in, absentee, and drop-off ballot, or early voting, including members of the military.
According to Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, “It is DoD policy to encourage members of the Armed Forces to carry out the obligations of citizenship.”
In layman’s terms, each member of the Armed Forces is encouraged to perform his or her civic duty to vote.
Beyond voting though, there are many other ways that Airmen can participate in politics. However, it is important to read and understand the official rules that govern such participation for military personnel, so that those political activities do not cross the line and become a conflict of interest. This is especially true for members of the Guard and Reserve, who do not spend the majority of their time on duty or in uniform.
Below is a summarized list of the political can and cannot rules for Guard and Reserve members who are not on active duty for more than 30 consecutive days.
CAN: Vote, register to vote, encourage others to vote, but not as a representative of the armed forces. Airmen may also fully participate in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
CANNOT: Use your influence or authority to force others to vote or to interfere with the outcome of the election.
POLITICAL ACTIVITIES (BOTH PARTISAN & NON PARTISAN)
CAN: Join political clubs and attend meetings, rallies, fundraisers, debates, and conventions, when not in uniform or on duty.
CANNOT: Take part in political activities while on duty, in uniform, or as an official representative of the Air Force, or use Air Force property and resources for political purposes. Airmen are never permitted, on or off duty, to join or participate in groups that advocate a supremacist ideology or aim to deny civil rights to individuals.
“Military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.” - AFI 51.508 (3.4)
EXPRESSING POLITICAL VIEWS
CAN: As a private citizen, and not an official representative of the AF you can sign petitions, display a bumper sticker on your private vehicle, wear political accessories or apparel when not on duty or in uniform, and write a letter expressing your views to editor of newspaper (if you clearly state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Air Force or the Department of Defense)
CANNOT: Display political signs or banners other than a bumper sticker on your private vehicle, display signs and banners on base housing, and commissioned officers can’t use contemptuous words against the President and other elected or appointed leaders.
CAN: Follow and post, like, share, or retweet a message in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group when not on duty, and not in the work place.
CANNOT: Do any of the above as an official sponsor of the Air Force, use your military rank or official title when posting, or use your official authority to affect the outcome of an election. Don’t use social media accounts that are designated for work purposes in your official capacity to engage in politics, and don’t send messages to subordinates that are about partisan politics.
“Employees may not post, like, share, or retweet a message or comment in support of or opposition to a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group while on duty or in the workplace, even if their social media account is private.” - The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Hatch Act Guidance on Social Media
PROTESTS & DEMONSTRATIONS
CAN: Attend and participate in protests, demonstrations, and similar activities when off duty and not in uniform.
CANNOT: Attend such activities in foreign countries, if their participation includes illegal activity, or if the activity is likely to cause violence.
CAN: Make monetary donations to political organizations and committees.
CANNOT: Exceed the contribution limits stated in 2 U.S.C. § 441a
CAN: Serve as an election official (poll worker) in a non-partisan capacity when you have the SECAF’s approval.
CANNOT: Serve as an election official in a partisan capacity, or when in uniform, or when it would interfere with military duties.
RUNNING FOR ELECTED CIVIL OFFICE
CAN: Campaign for elected office if not on active duty for more than 270 days, and can state you are a member of the Air Force, and include Air Force photos, in your official biography or campaign materials, as long as you include a disclaimer that states the information and photos do not imply endorsement from the Department of the Air Force of The Department of Defense.
CANNOT: Allow your campaigning to interfere with military duty, or use your authority to force or encourage others to campaign for you. No campaigning on base, or in uniform, and you cannot use military photos as primary campaign material, or have military photos that are misleading about your official military duties.
SERVING IN FEDERAL CIVIL OFFICE
CAN: Reservists may serve in an elected office of the federal government if not on active duty for more than 270 days.
CANNOT: Let political duties interfere with military duties. Must resign from office if called to active duty for more than 270 days.
SERVING IN STATE OR LOCAL CIVIL OFFICE
CAN: Reservists may serve in an elected office at the state and local levels if not on active duty for more than 270 days, and may continue to hold their office, but not exercise the duties of it, if called to active duty for more than 270 days, with permission of the SECAF.
CANNOT: Let political duties interfere with military duties.
For more detailed information about the rules governing the political activities of military personnel, including those on active duty, read Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, Air Force Instruction 51-508, and the Hatch Act, or contact the March Staff Judge Advocate at 951- 655- 4479 or 452AMW.JA@us.af.mil.