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To the Soldiers and Airmen of the South Carolina National Guard,
 
This year, as we enter an election cycle, it is important for all South Carolina National Guard Soldiers, Airmen, and eligible Family members to feel free to exercise their right to register, vote, and express their opinion on political candidates and issues.  While exercising these rights is an important part of being a citizen, it is also important to avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate or campaign by any element of the Department of Defense.  With that in mind, all service members must have an understanding of what they can and cannot participate in as a member of the South Carolina National Guard.  As a currently serving member of the South Carolina National Guard, things to be mindful of include:
 
1.  Do not endorse, sponsor, or advocate that other military members vote for a specific candidate or party
2.  Do not attend political activities in uniform or publicly endorse a campaign, whether in a duty status or not
3.  Do not use a federal building, government phone, or laptop for political purposes or activities
4.  Avoid any pictures of you and a political candidate while in uniform
5.  Do not use your military position to advocate or advance a candidate or party campaign
6.  Understand that what you post, like, and share on social media can still violate DoD policies and regulations
 
Act as though someone is always watching, remain professional, and follow the above guidelines both in day-to-day life, as well as with your online presence.  Remember, your actions as a member of the South Carolina National Guard are viewed as the opinion of the organization, which hinders our ability to remain an apolitical organization, and violates existing policies, laws, and regulations. However, it is also important to understand your rights as an actively serving military member:
 
1.  You may have yard signs at your residence that identifies your candidate, as well as bumper stickers on your personal vehicle
2.  You may contribute to a campaign of your choice, as long as you are not identified as a sponsor
3.  You may attend a campaign event as a spectator, not in uniform; however, do not provide support to the candidate through communications at the event
4.  Encourage others to vote, without suggesting how or for whom
 
For more information on the limitations for military members, you can reference DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and the Hatch Act; AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, chapter 5; and AFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel.  You can also find answers to frequently asked questions here: https://www.defense.gov/ask-us/faq/Article/1774809/what-is-the-policy-for-participating-in-political-campaigns/
 
If there is ever a time you are unsure of what you are able to participate in as a service member, please contact your unit's judge advocate for guidance.
 
I highly encourage all Soldiers and Airmen to exercise their right to vote and participate in the nation's political process, but be responsible and knowledgeable of the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the actions of currently serving military members.
 
Thank you for your service to our state and nation.
 
R. Van McCarty
Major General
The Adjutant General
for South Carolina
 

Guidance on Political Activity and DoD Support

AS OF 11 FEB 2020
 

"As we move toward the 2020 elections, all DoD personnel – military and civilian – must be aware of the limitations that affect their participation in political activity.  While all personnel are encouraged to carry out the obligations of citizenship, they must be mindful of the long-standing tradition that DoD remain apolitical.  This summary and links to detailed guidance will assist you in applying the rules to your particular circumstances and help you avoid inadvertent missteps."   

 
Civilian Employees
 
The political activity of DoD civilians is regulated by a number of sources: the Hatch Act (5 USC 7321 – 7326), implementing regulations (5 CFR 733 and 5 CFR 734), as well as DoD policy.  For purposes of the Hatch Act, political activity is defined as “an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office or partisan political group.”  Because the application of the rules varies depending on an employee’s position or office, it is extremely important that employees who are engaging in political activity know which rules apply.   
With regard to civilian employees, there are two sets of restrictions for three groups of employees.  The first and more restrictive set of rules apply to: (1) individuals appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and individuals serving in non-career SES positions; and (2) career members of the SES, contract appeals board members, and all employees of the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the National Geo-Spatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  The second and less restrictive set of rules apply to all other employees (including Schedule C political appointees). 
 
Employees in Groups 1 and 2 may not take an active part in partisan political management or political campaigns and are referred to as “further restricted” employees.
 
 
Further restricted employees are expressly prohibited from participating in political activity.  Specifically, further restricted employees are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is “in concert” with a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office.  “In concert” activity is any activity that is sponsored or supported by a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office.  Prohibited activities also include soliciting, accepting, or receiving campaign or other political contributions.  Further restricted employees may, however, express their personal opinions, make monetary contributions to a campaign, and attend, but not actively participate in, campaign events or fundraising functions sponsored by candidates for partisan political office or political parties.  See  Partisan Political Activity Rules for “Further Restricted” DoD Civilians.
 
Less restricted employees (employees in Group 3), while in their personal capacities, may volunteer with a political campaign or political organization.  Examples of permitted volunteer activities include: organizing political rallies and meetings, making phone calls on behalf of a candidate, serving as a delegate to a party convention, and working for a political party to get out the vote.  These employees are, however, prohibited from soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions.  See  Partisan Political Activity Rules for “Less Restricted” DoD Civilians
 
Regardless of whether a civilian employee is further restricted or less restricted, she may never engage in political activity while on-duty or in a Federal building.  Specifically, an employee may not send or forward political emails, post political messages to social media, such as a Facebook account or political “tweeting” while in a Federal building (including when off-duty), even if the employee is using her personal smartphone, tablet, or computer.  Employees may never use government equipment to engage in political activities.    

Military Members
 
The primary guidance concerning political activity for military members is found in DoD Directive 1344.10 [Guidance for Military Personnel].  Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.  Members on active duty may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an officer of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.  Active duty members may, however, express their personal opinions on political candidates and issues, make monetary contributions to a political campaign or organization, and attend political events, in their personal capacity, as a spectator when not in uniform.  
 
Social Media
Civilian personnel may generally express their personal views on public issues or political candidates via personal accounts on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, in the same way they could write a letter to the editor of a newspaper.  If, when expressing a personal opinion, personnel are identified by a social media site as DoD employees, the posting must clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not of the Department of Defense. 
 
As previously noted, active duty military members and further restricted civilian employees are prohibited from participating in partisan political activity.  Therefore, while these employees may “follow” “friend” or “like” a political party or candidate running for partisan office, they may not post links to, “share” or “re-tweet” comments or tweets from the Facebook page or twitter account of a political party or candidate running for partisan office.  Such activity is deemed to constitute participation in political activities. 
 
Service members must also be careful not to comment, post, or link to material that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or Service regulation.  Examples include showing contempt for public officials, releasing sensitive information, or posting unprofessional material that is prejudicial to good order and discipline or Service discrediting under the UCMJ.
 
Social media guidance for military members [FAQs Political Activities and Members of the Armed Forces] and civilian employees [Social Media and the Hatch Act] offers advice on how to avoid violating the rules. 
 
DoD Support to Campaigns
 
            Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating DoD, or any component or personnel of DoD, with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of this guidance must be avoided.  Consistent with this, installation commanders must decline requests for military personnel or federal civilian employees to appear in or support political campaign or election events in their official capacities, with the exception of providing joint Armed Forces color guards at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, and other political parties formally recognized by the Federal Election Commission.  In addition, installation commanders shall not permit the use of military facilities by any candidate for political campaign or election events, including public assemblies or town hall meetings, speeches, fundraisers, press conferences, post-election celebrations and concession addresses.
 
Use of Official DoD Seals and Emblems
 
            Official seals of DoD and the Military Services may only be used for official purposes.   Military Service marks, including those appearing on flags, "may not be licensed for use in a manner that creates a perception of DoD endorsement of any non-federal entity or its products or services."  DoD employees authorized to participate in political activities in their personal capacities must not sanction use of the flag or otherwise create an actual or apparent endorsement of a candidate or campaign by DoD or a Military Service.

Resources

National Guard Employees

As the election season is gearing up, we want to remind you of the political activities that are and are not acceptable as a federal employee.  NG Employees (technicians; and competitive and excepted title 5) may engage in "political activity" on behalf of a political party or partisan political group (collectively referred to as "partisan groups") or candidate in a partisan election as long as it is not on duty or in the workplace.  Political activity refers to any activity directed at the success or failure of a partisan group or candidate in a partisan election.  The Hatch Act Notification link provided below details these activities.

Additionally, CNGB Instruction allows excused absence with supervisor approval to register to vote in Enclosure J.  Please consult your local absense and leave policy, if applicable, for more specific instructions.