Issue Briefs

With the campaigning home stretch ahead, it’s important for federal and postal employees to understand which activities are permissible and which are not. Following is a summary of key points of the Hatch Act.

Under the 1939 Hatch Act, federal employees and certain state and local government employees face restrictions on their ability to participate in political activities. Although Congress amended the Hatch Act in 1993 to permit more political activity by federal government employees, many restrictions still apply. Also, certain federal agencies and categories of employees continue to be covered by the tighter restrictions on political activities predating that reform. These agencies and categories are: Administrative Law Judges; Central Imagery Office; Central Intelligence Agency; Contract Appeals Boards; Criminal Division (Department of Justice); Defense Intelligence Agency; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Federal Elections Commission; Merit Systems Protection Board; National Security Agency; National Security Council; Office of Criminal Investigation (Internal Revenue Service); Office of Investigative Programs (Customs Service); Office of Law Enforcement (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms); Office of Special Counsel; Secret Service; and Senior Executive Service (certain career positions).

Hatch Act restrictions do not apply to retirees.

More information about the Hatch Act, including points of contact for seeking advisory opinions regarding permissible vs. impermissible activities, is at www.osc.gov.

Employees Covered by the 1993 Amendments May:

• be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections;

• register and vote as they choose;

• assist in voter registration drives;

• express opinions about candidates and issues;

• contribute money to political organizations;

• attend political fundraising functions;

• attend and be active at political rallies and meetings;

• join and be an active member of a political party or club;

• sign nominating petitions;

• campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, or municipal ordinances;

• campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections;

• make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections;

• distribute campaign literature in partisan elections; and

• hold office in political clubs or parties.

 

Employees Not Covered by the 1993 Amendments May:

• register and vote as they choose;

• assist in voter registration drives;

• express opinions about candidates and issues;

• participate in campaigns where none of the candidates represent a political party;

• contribute money to political organizations or attend political fund raising functions;

• attend political rallies and meetings;

• join political clubs or parties;

• sign nominating petitions; and

• campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances.

 

Employees Covered by the 1993 Amendments May Not:

• use official authority or influence to interfere with an election;

• solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency;

• solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by

• federal labor or other employee organizations);

• be candidates for public office in partisan elections;

• engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle; or

• wear political buttons on duty.

 

Employees Not Covered by the 1993 Amendments May Not:

• be candidates for public office in partisan elections;

• campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates in partisan elections;

• make campaign speeches;

• collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund raising functions;

• distribute campaign material in partisan elections;

• organize or manage political rallies or meetings;

• hold office in political clubs or parties;

• circulate nominating petitions;

• work to register voters for one party only; or

• wear political buttons at work.