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380AEW Article

Friendly reminders as election season approaches

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

It’s less than five months away from Election Day on November 3, 2020, and things are starting to heat up as the candidates kick their campaigns into high gear. Every place where there is a television, not too many moments will go by without seeing a political ad.

This means it’s time to dive into the cans and can nots of participation in political activities for military members. While it is expected and encouraged to be politically conscious citizens, there are limitations on active participation.

The Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, limits certain political activities of government employees who work in connection with federally funded programs, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The act breaks down who are less restricted employees, which includes most federal executive branch employees, from the further restricted employees, which includes positions in organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA).

For a more specific breakdown in regards to Air Force members, AF Instruction 51-902 is the directive to view. Here is some of the rules an Airman must follow:

Air Force members CAN:

  • Register to vote and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces
  • Make monetary contributions to a political organization or political committee favoring a particular candidate or slate of candidates
  • Attend political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform
  • Join a political club and attend its meetings when not in uniform
  • Serve as an election official, if such service is not as a representative of a partisan political party, does not interfere with military duties, is performed while out of uniform, and has the prior approval of the major command commander or equivalent authority This approval authority may be delegated, but not below the level of installation commander
  • Sign a petition for specific legislative action or a petition  ​​

Air Force members CAN NOT:

  • Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, to affect its course or outcome, to solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or to require or solicit political contributions from others
  • Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions, or make public speeches in the course of such activity
  • Allow, or cause to be published, partisan political articles signed or authorized by the member for soliciting votes for or against a partisan political party or candidate
  • Serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club
  • Speak before a partisan political gathering of any kind for promoting a partisan political party or candidate
  • Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate of a partisan political party or candidate

There are resources available to answer any questions that Airmen may have leading up to Election Day.

“The big thing about these rules is we are trying to avoid any official endorsement of a political party,” said Capt. Zachary Thurber, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing deputy staff judge advocate. “In general, a member is allowed to make their personal views known, but before someone goes down that path, we want them to call us and ask about it.”

One of the main ways to express political views is through social media, and this is an area where Thurber believes people can get into hot water the fastest.

“Social media is where people can get into the most trouble,” he said. “You have to ask yourself how your account looks. Does it have pictures of you in uniform? Do you have your name and rank displayed? If these items are visible, then it can be insinuated your profile is the official representation of the Air Force endorsement.”

Elections take place every four years for the U.S. president and every two years for members of Congress. To participate in the vote, a person must be at least 18 years old and meet the requirements of the state they reside in. These guidelines can be found at

Absentee or early voting options are available for deployed Airmen or those out of the country on travel. To find out more about those options, visit the installation’s voting rights center or the wing’s JA office.