Political season: What service members need to know

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christina Carter
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

As the 2020 U.S. Presidential election approaches, recent developments stemming from the spread of COVID-19 may introduce some challenges for Airmen as they head to the polls.

Despite these challenges, Airmen are encouraged to vote and remain engaged throughout the political process in a safe and responsible manner.

“As U.S. service men and women, we need to demonstrate to the American people the importance of civic duty,” said 2nd Lt. Troy Clevenger, a 509th Security Forces Squadron support staff section commander. “We lead the way and voting is the best way to protect the ideals of the United States.” Airmen should be aware that COVID-19 has changed many states election days and voter registration deadlines.

Currently the Whiteman AFB Voting Assistance Office is closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Airmen can find current information on the COVID-19 response for voters by visiting Team Whiteman’s official website, https://www.whiteman.af.mil/About/Voting/ or by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website https://www.fvap.gov/covid-19.

While many states offer electronic voter registration, others may require voters to mail their applications, Clevenger added, requiring timely action of absentee voters.

Uniformed service members should also be mindful of limitations to their political involvement and public support for political campaigns, Clevenger said. Airmen are encouraged to stay aware of the issues and be knowledgeable in the country’s political activities but are limited in their event participation in uniform, lobbying activities or campaigns on social media.

“There are laws and regulations that prohibit us from criticizing the chain of command, the President of the United States, members of Congress, and other offices and agencies of the U.S. Government,” he continued. “It’s important that we have that separation. We serve whomever the American people choose regardless of our personal opinion.”

According to the Hatch Act, while on social media military members may:

  • Express personal views on political candidates and issues, but a disclaimer may be required.
  • “Follow,” “friend” or “like” a political party or candidate running for partisan office.

Military members may not:

  • Engage in social media activities in the work place, on duty or using government resources.
  • Post links to, “share” or “re-tweet” comments or tweets from social media accounts of political parties or candidates running for partisan office.

Airmen should also avoid commenting, posting, or linking to material that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice or service regulations.

When it comes to other political activities, DoD Directive 1344.10 allows military members to:

  • Encourage others to vote.
  • Express their personal opinions on partisan political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the military.
  • When not in uniform, attend partisan political events, as a spectator.
  • Contribute personal money to a partisan political campaign or organization.
  • Have a partisan political bumper sticker on personal vehicle.
  • Participate in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Military members may not:

  • Engage in campaigning for a candidate, soliciting contributions, marching in a partisan parade and wearing the uniform to a partisan event.
  • Avoid implying or appearing to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or issue.
  • Serve as an officer of a political club, or speak before a political gathering.
  • Interfere with an election or affect the outcome of an election.
  • Solicit votes for a particular candidate or cause.
  • Participate in any media program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
  • March or ride in a partisan political parade.
  • Display a large partisan political sign, banner, or poster on a private vehicle.
  • Display a political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation.
  • Sell tickets for or otherwise actively promote partisan political dinners and similar fundraising events.

For more information, on what military members should and should not do when it comes political activities visit https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/134410p.pdf.

Airmen and families registered to vote in Missouri can visit https://voteroutreach.sos.mo.gov/PRD/VoterOutreach/VOSearch.aspx for polling locations.