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PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – With an increased use of social media and mobile technology, it has been simpler for Airmen and civilians to share their thoughts and opinions around the world about the upcoming elections. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are just some of the social media platforms out there for public use. The Department of Defense policy encourages Airmen and civilians to carry out the obligations of citizenship. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With an increased use of social media and mobile technology, it has been simpler than ever to share your thoughts and opinions around the world.

Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are just some of the social media platforms out there for public use.

This past February, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel updated its guidance regarding when federal employees’ use of social media violates the Hatch Act, a federal law that has been in place since 1939.

“The Hatch Act limits federal employees' political activities to enforce political neutrality among the ranks,” said Christine Fornander, 21st Force Support Squadron Airman & Family Readiness Center installation voting assistant officer.

The Department of Defense policy is to encourage members of the Armed Forces , including members on active duty, DoD civilians, members of the Reserve Components not on active duty, members of the National Guard (even when in a non-Federal status), and retired members to carry out the obligations of citizenship.

Generally speaking, all federal employees may use social media to comply with the Hatch Act so long as they abide by the following three prohibitions:

• Employees may not engage in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace.
• Employees may not knowingly solicit, accept, or receive a political contribution for a political party, candidate in a partisan race, or partisan political group. This rule applies 24/7, not just in the workplace.
• Employees may not use their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election. This rule also applies 24/7, not just in the workplace.

Whether it’s a small local election or a large national election, service members are encouraged to stay up to date and be involved in political activities.

AFI 51-902 provides specific rules regarding what Air Force members can and cannot do in the political arena. A brief review of these important rules can keep you out of trouble while still being able to be a responsible, politically conscious citizen.

Do:
• Register to and vote
• Express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces
• Encourage others to vote
• Make monetary contributions to a political organization or political committee
• Attend political meetings or rallies as a spectator when not in uniform
• Join a political club and attend its meetings when not in uniform
• Participate fully in the Federal Voting Assistance Program

Don’t:

• Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
• Solicit contributions in any federal or military offices or facilities for any partisan political candidate or cause
• Serve as an officer for in sponsor of a partisan political club
• Speak to a partisan political gathering to promote a partisan political party or candidate
• March or ride in a partisan political parade
• Display a large political sign at one’s residence on a military installation
• Use contemptuous words concerning the president or Congress

“If Airmen don't follow the political activity dos and don'ts, they risk Uniform Code of Military Justice actions,” said Fornander.

If you are active duty, civilian, or a dependent of the military and not registered in Colorado to vote, you may request your state's ballot by registering at www.fvap.gov. Find your state, follow the directions for your state and request a ballot. The Peterson Airman & Family Readiness Center is your point of contact should you need voting assistance.

“To get election information you can Google candidate races and read local newspapers online or in print,” said Fornander. “The local newspapers both have extensive information on candidates and issues. I recommend several diverse sources on the same subject to have a larger picture view.”




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