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Political CANs and CANNOTs for Soldiers during a presidential election year

Now that we are through the holiday season and charging forward towards Spring we face 2012, a presidential election year. That potentially spells problems for military personnel (active, Guard, Reserve, or retired) who want to be involved in the political process. This article is a quick reference to help you navigate the various political restrictions that apply to you as a Service Member.

Political restrictions for Soldiers in the Army

Voting is the right of all American citizens, but politicking in uniform is prohibited.

Restrictions on Soldiers who want to be involved with politics

For a number of reasons, your ability to make political statements and decisions is limited while serving as a member of the Armed Forces. Here are some of the most important restrictions:

Campaigning

The greatest restriction is that Active-duty servicemembers are strictly prohibited from campaigning for political office or actively taking part in a political campaign–even behind the scenes.

Rallies

You CAN attend a political rally as a spectator. You CANNOT wear your uniform to the rally. You CANNOT speak in front of the rally.

Letters-to-the-Editor

You CAN write a letter to the editor of a paper expressing your personal view calling for the repeal or passing of legislation and sign it as a service member.

Talking to or writing to your Member of Congress

You CAN express your personal opinion to Congress about legislation or personal issues. You CANNOT tell your Congressperson that you are speaking on behalf of your unit or the military when you tell him/her that (for example) DADT should be repealed. The right to communicate with Congress is found in Article 138, UCMJ, regarding complaints of wrongs. And you are protected from retaliation by statute, 10 U. S. Code 1034.

Talking on the radio/TV or at a program/group discussion

You CAN express your personal opinion when interviewed by the press, unless in uniform. You CANNOT tell the press that you represent the Armed Forces.

Petition

You CAN sign a petition. You CANNOT claim to represent the military when signing a petition.

Bumper Sticker

You CAN put a political oriented bumper sticker on your personal car. You CANNOT put bumper stickers on military vehicles.

Voting

You CAN vote for candidates who support your views. You CAN encourage other people to vote during election times; but you cannot encourage them to vote for a particular candidate or party. You CANNOT campaign for a particular candidate representing yourself as a military member.

Contributions

You CAN contribute money to political organizations.

Fundraisers

You CAN attend a political dinner or similar fundraiser, but NOT in uniform. You CANNOT sell tickets for, or otherwise actively promote, the dinner or similar fundraising events.

References

Additional Reading

posted on 01/18/2012 under Articles
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CDR Philip D. Cave, JAGC, USN (Ret.) has 32 years of military and security clearance law experience. Having handled cases from all branches of service, Philip is the resident legal guru on the AskTOP SME Panel. If you are facing adverse action, losing your security clearance, being labeled with an AWOL status, or otherwise seeking a professional Case Evaluation, visit Philip’s website to learn how he can help you. court-martial.com

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