Project Wonderful

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd : Can I Volunteer On A Campaign While In The Armed Services?

For today's Ask An Election Nerd, we turn to FOCS Amanda Le'Anne Brunzell, OFA Alum and Naval Veteran. Thanks for your service Amanda Le'Anne, both in the Navy and for helping us out right now!

I volunteered for a Congressional Campaign for the 2012 elections and it was the greatest experience of my life, but I am now attending the United States Air Force Academy and I am no longer allowed to volunteer for anything political. What is the best way to help without volunteering?

Yes, you can volunteer. But you cannot do it in an official military capacity. Lets back up a moment on how I get that answer. I’m a Naval Veteran, who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. After the Navy, I went to college through the Post 9/11 GI Bill (thanks Obama) for Health Admin and Political Science majors but in 2008 I started with the Obama Campaign and been campaigning ever since. (we’re talking helping or a staff member in over 25 races!) One of my constituencies is Veterans and Military Issues, so I deal with them often and love it!

Back to the answer, the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 is an entire directive of what you can and cannot when it comes to political activities. Easy to Google it, but I’ll shorthand it for you. This is for active duty members and because you are at a service school these apply to you as well.

Things you CAN DO:
•Vote, Register Voters, and encourage others to vote. (Though I noticed others would vote for the opponent so I kept my mouth shut and didn’t remind them like I should- Hey every vote makes a difference!)
•Go to political clubs- you can do this but not in an official manner- this means no uniforms.
•Sign a petition for legislation or to get a candidate on the ballot (again, as a private citizen and not associated with the military)
•Write a letter to the editor. No ranks can be put in and you have to do it as a private citizen once again. If it’s written in such a way that people can tell you’re active duty you need to express that these are your views and NOT that of the Armed Forces.
•Donate to a candidate or political party. (Obviously within the limits of Campaign Finance Laws) You can also go to fundraisers and rallies and such but not in Uniform, and only as a private citizen. If you’re at a rally you can wear a uniform but you must notify your Chain of Command that you’re doing it and while in Uniform you are to speak not as a representative of the Military. (Ask your Public Affairs Officer for guidelines on military approved sound bites if need be) I saw a Marine who did this at a political book signing and it was done properly.
•You can put bumper stickers on your private vehicle but no political signs in base housing. (even if its privatized).
•Participate in the Federal Voting Assistance Program, or ask if you can help out the Voting Assistance Officer at your school or base (this is is the program that helps military members get absentee ballots and register to vote while overseas or on bases.)

Things you CANNOT do:
•Use your uniform or rank for anything political such as endorsements.
•Use your rank or uniform to influence or interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others.
•Serve as an official in a political party organization.
•Speak as an official before a political group or club using your rank or uniform. This includes TV, Radio, or other social media outlets.
Big thing: You CAN NOT solicit fundraising on Federal Property. So don’t ask your friends to donate for a candidate or organization.
•March in parades in uniform for a political group
•Put large signs on your car (anything bigger than a bumper sticker is a no no) (car painting the windows also a no no)
•Drive people to the polls*

Summed up, Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security (in the case of the Coast Guard) or any component of these Departments with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of the Directive 1344.10 shall be avoided so just don’t do it!
( ‘s words not mine but yes they summed it up perfectly) Using sound judgment is a best practice always but knowledge is power and knowing the rules and regulations for this issue is smart! Yes you can volunteer but even in a job outside of the military it’s always smart to keep your professional and personal life separate so go out and volunteer!

*Nancy's Note: I asked Amanda Le'Anne why you could doorknock and phonebank but not drive people to the phones. She said she didn't know but those are the rules.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I specifically forgot to put in but you can def phone bank and canvass while not in uniform and on your own time! (phonebanking is easier to hide your identity because when I phone bank I just use my first name and even when I call people I know sometimes they have NO CLUE it's me!)