Election Day is Quickly Approaching: A Hatch Act Reminder

Last edited 12/01/2021
Picture of "I Voted" stickers on a white table

Although this year is not a Federal election year, please know that partisan elections for many state and local offices are scheduled to take place next month.  As a result, we thought now would be a great time to remind everyone about the Hatch Act’s restrictions on political activity for Federal employees.

First of all, the Hatch Act defines political activity as any activity directed toward the success or failure of any political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.  For most employees, the Hatch Act prohibits you from engaging in such activities while on duty, in a Federal building, wearing a Department of the Interior uniform or insignia, or in a Federal vehicle.

Additionally, the Hatch Act also contains certain 24/7 prohibitions that apply to you even while off duty and outside of a Federal building or vehicle and those restrictions include:

  • Using your official title or authority for the purpose of affecting the result of an election;
  • Soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions from any person;
  • Being a candidate for public office in a partisan election; and
  • Soliciting or discouraging the political activity of any individual with business before the Department of the Interior.

Some employees like Career Senior Executive Service employees, Administrative Law Judges, Administrative Appeals Judges, and Contract Appeals Judges are considered “further restricted” under the Hatch Act.  That means, in addition to the above prohibitions, further restricted employees are also prohibited from taking an active part in partisan political management or campaigning.

As it relates to personal social media use, the above-mentioned Hatch Act restrictions apply in the following ways:

  • While on duty or in a Federal building, the Hatch Act prohibits you from posting or sharing a message about a partisan political candidate, party or group, tweeting or retweeting content supporting or opposing a partisan political candidate, party or group, or inviting others to a campaign rally or other partisan political event.
  • Even when off duty and off premises, you are also prohibited from tweeting, liking, or otherwise sharing a message that asks others to donate to a partisan political candidate, party or group, sharing an invitation to a campaign or political party fundraiser, or using your official title or position to endorse a partisan political candidate, party or group.

If you have any questions concerning this guidance or any other ethics topic, you are encouraged to contact an ethics counselor.  Contact information for the Department of the Interior’s Departmental Ethics Office and bureau ethics counselors is available at https://www.doi.gov/ethics/bureau-office-contacts.

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