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DoD Employees, Servicemembers Must Heed Election Activity Rules

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2004 – As the election season swings into high gear, the Office of Special Counsel has filed complaints against two federal employees deemed in violation of the Hatch Act.

The complaints address the use of "politically partisan electronic mail messages while on duty," according to a statement released by the OSC.

The Hatch Act regulates DoD employees' participation in politics. The recent violations focus on e-mails sent to about 15 recipients in one case and more than 70 in the other.

"The use of Internet and electronic mail is second-nature to almost everyone and has become a favorite and effective campaign tool, even more so perhaps than four years ago," Special Counsel Scott Bloch said in the statement. "I want to remind federal employees to be vigilant about following the Hatch Act, because we will consider this activity a form of electronic leafleting and thus a violation of the prohibition on partisan political activity in the workplace."

Partisan political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.

Participation in politics is not completely forbidden. However, executive- branch employees need to be aware of the rights and restrictions that the Hatch Act imposes on such activity. What is allowed and disallowed can be a bit confusing.

While not regulated by the Hatch Act, DoD employees in uniform are under the most restrictions, imposed by DoD Directive 1344.10. They may attend political meetings or rallies, but only as spectators and not in uniform. They are not allowed to give political speeches, serve in any official capacity in partisan groups or participate in political campaigns or conventions. They are also not generally allowed to campaign for political office.

In their essence, the Hatch Act and DoDI 1344.10 prohibit federal executive- branch employees and military members from engaging in political activity while on duty or wearing an official uniform, officials said.

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Related Sites:
Hatch Act for Federal Employees
DoD Directive on Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces
Political Do's and Don'ts Under the Hatch Act

Related Articles:
Rules Restrict Political Activity for DoD People

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