But wait? Isn’t there some law that says that the military community can’t be involved in politics? And that includes military spouses too, right?
Yes and no.
Yes – service members’ activities are restricted when it comes to politics.
No – it doesn’t apply to military spouses.
We know that there is a lot of information out there about what military members can do in relation to politics and we are here to help sort it all out for you.
So what exactly prohibits service members’ political involvement?
Two separate but similar regulations prohibit federal employees and members of the military from engaging in political activity; these are the Hatch Act and Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1344.10. The Hatch Act directly applies to federal employees while the DoDD 1344.10 applies to service members, including active duty, National Guard, Reservists, and retirees.
When and why were these regulations adopted?
The Hatch Act was passed in 1939 after allegations that members of the Works Progress Administration used their power as a means of electing democratic candidates to Congress in 1938. The Act was passed to ensure that federal employees are hired and promoted based on merit and not political activities. It also applies to some state, D.C., and local government employees who work with federally funded programs.
The DoDD was most recently updated in 2008 but is similar to the Hatch Act in restrictions and is not meant to curtail service members duties as citizens (e.g. voting) but rather avoid any implication or appearance of “official sponsorship, approval or endorsement,” of a candidate or political stand.
For the purpose of the remainder of this post, we’re going to focus on service members specifically, but if you are a federal employee, check out Office of Special Counsel’s website devoted to the Hatch Act. It offers helpful FAQs for employees to determine what they can and can’t do based on the Act, including recent amendments to the law.
What can service members do?
The directive allows service members as private citizens to engage in the political process – this includes registering to vote, voting, signing nominating petitions and contributing money to a campaign.
Service members can have small bumper stickers on their personal vehicle or property and attend partisan events in civilian clothes.
They can encourage people to be involved in the political process as long as they don’t use their authority to influence people to vote in one way or another. When discussing politics, service members must make it clear that their position is their’s alone, not in any way an endorsement from their service branch.
What can’t service members do?
Service members can’t attend partisan events in uniform or participate in political activities.
By participate we mean work, speak or volunteer at a partisan event.
They can’t publish partisan political articles, letters or other publications; serve in any capacity with a partisan group; fund-raise on behalf of a candidate, political party, or other partisan activity; and display a large political sign on their personal property (including vehicle).
Service members can’t run for public office if they are on active duty for more than 270 days – this in particular is important for National Guard members, Reservists and retirees.
All of the activities (both what you can and can’t do as a service member) includes social media. The Department of Defense has issued guidelines to help clarify how these play out online. The entire language for DoDD 1344.10 is available online here.
I’m a military spouse – does this mean I can’t be involved in politics?
Not at all. Neither the Hatch Act nor the DoDD applies to military spouses that are not federal employees or service members themselves. So as a spouse, you can talk all you want about politics, run for public office and actively participate in partisan activities.
I want to be more involved in politics – what organizations are out there?
We are so glad that you asked! There are a number of organizations designed by and for military spouses who want to be involved in politics.
Homefront Rising trains military spouses to speak up and run for office to change the political conversation in this country. It started as a one-day nonpartisan workshop and quickly involved into an online community encouraging spouses to run for office. Homefront Rising provides spouses with the resources and information needed to pursue roles in political office in local, state and national government. Stay up-to-date with their latest events on their Facebook page.
Keep Your Promise shares articles and information about proposed changes in military benefits. They intend to create a conversation and inform the military community about these issues. Their ultimate goal is a movement to fight against cuts to military benefits. Follow them on Facebook to stay informed.
Not a member of one of the 2 main parties?
Check out Meetup to find local groups with similar interests beyond the local party, including issues that you care most about.