Election Season Do’s and Don’ts

A guide for Sailors and Navy civil servants

With presidential and congressional elections approaching, the Navy encourages every one of us to exercise our right to vote.

Just as important is the right to free speech. But we also have the right to be free from political pressure while we’re at work. That means being mindful of laws that prevent us from using our position to advance a political view.

Boatswain’€™s Mate 3rd Class Jason Smith reviews the voting registration guidelines for North Carolina as he registers to vote while underway aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Torrey W. Lee/Released)

First, how much do you know about what you can and can’t do while on duty, in uniform or in the federal workplace?

Test your knowledge below–and then take a look at some great resources to help you stay on the right side of the law.

Quiz: True or False?

(Scroll down for the answers.)

1. I can wear my uniform at a political rally as long as it’s my Type IIs and my unit patch is removed.

2. It’s OK to volunteer for a campaign on your own time for things like phone banking, posting signs or asking for donations.

3. As long as I’m on my lunch break, I can “like” a political message on Facebook or retweet a candidate while I’m still on the installation.

4. It’s OK to have a poster of Presidents Teddy Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy on my wall since I served on both of the carriers named after them.

5. A campaign bumper sticker on your car or truck is permitted even while parked on a federal property.

6. I can bring to work a shirt with the logo #RESIST or Make America Great Again, as long as I don’t actually wear it.

7. A private conversation about a political issue is OK, even at work.

Who’s Included

Sailors, like other military service members, are bound by DoD Directive 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.” This document outlines the specific types of political participation that military service members may take part in.

All federal civilians are bound by the Hatch Act of 1939. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, offers answers to frequently asked questions about what’s allowed and what’s prohibited.

Some federal employees at certain agencies are subject to additional restrictions. For more information, visit the OSC’s Hatch Act information page. A quick summary is below.

A graphic that explains the difference between restricted and less restricted employees.
U.S. Navy graphic by Austin Rooney/Released

Sharing on Social Media

Graphic of social media icons

Social media can be particularly tricky. The OSC offers this printable PDF chart for what you can and can’t do on social.

All federal employees may not:

– Use a social media account in your official capacity to engage in political activity at any time (but including your official title/position on a social media profile is allowed).

– Tweet, retweet, share, or like a post or content that solicits political contributions at any time

– Like or follow the social media page of a candidate for partisan office or partisan group while on duty or in the workplace

– Engage in political activity via social media while on duty or in the workplace, or using government-owned equipment

In addition, further restricted employees may not:

– Link to or post the material of a partisan group or candidate for partisan office at any time

– Share or retweet the social media pages or posts of a partisan group or candidate for partisan office at any time


1. False. You cannot wear any part of your uniform at a political function.

2. Mostly false. You can volunteer but can’t ask for donations.

3. False. Liking or retweeting while on federal property is not allowed, even from your personal phone while on your lunch break.

4. True. Since neither past president is a current candidate for office, you can display those items as allowed by your command or installation.

5. True. A normal-sized bumper sticker is permitted, even if you park your car on federal property.

6. False. The Office of Special Counsel has said that both slogans are political statements and so neither one is permitted in the federal workplace.

7. It depends. You still can’t advocate for or against a political candidate, but a friendly, private discussion of current events is allowed so long as the other person is a willing participant.

More Information

Read about real-world examples from the U.S. /Office of Special Counsel.
Read OSC advisory opinions on different aspects of the Hatch Act.

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