Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Hatch Act

I don't know if you heard, but the U.S. just had a tiny, little, totally uncontroversial presidential election.

Many of my friends are talking about it - but those of us in the State Department have been - and will continue to be - pretty quiet on social media.  Let me assure you that this isn't because we don't have opinions on the subject.  Rather, we're bound by something called the Hatch Act, designed to keep the federal workforce from becoming a tool of (or being intimidated by) any one political party.  You can read all about it at the link above, and here's just a small sample of the do's and don'ts in case you're just too busy for that extra click.  It's worth a read too if you're considering a career with the federal government.

And let me just take this moment to say one (non partisan) thing about the election.

This year we had an inspiringly large showing of voters from all walks of life come to the Embassy and our outreach events to get their voting questions answered.  And regardless of the moderate spike in our workload it was a fantastic experience.  I'm honored to have helped my fellow citizens exercise their right to vote and immensely proud of our team that worked like crazy right up to election day.
And I'm pretty sure the Hatch Act doesn't have anything critical to say about that.


  • May not engage in political activity – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle. For example: 
    • May not wear or display partisan political buttons, T-shirts, signs, or other items.
    • May not make political contributions to a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not post a comment to a blog or a social media site that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.
    • May not use any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.

Permitted Activities

As discussed, further restricted federal employees are prohibited from taking an active part in partisan political management or partisan political campaigns. Specifically, these employees may not campaign for or against candidates or otherwise engage in political activity in concert with a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group. However, such employees, for example:
  • May register and vote as they choose.
  • May assist in nonpartisan voter registration drives.
  • May participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party.
  • May contribute money to political campaigns, political parties, or partisan political groups.
  • May attend political fundraising functions.
  • May attend political rallies and meetings.
  • May join political clubs or parties.
  • May sign nominating petitions.
  • May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances.
  • May be a candidate for public office in a nonpartisan election.
  • May express opinions about candidates and issues. If the expression is political activity, however – i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group – then the expression is not permitted while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle.

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