Navigating the election season as an Airman

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NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- As voting season approaches, it is important Airmen are reminded they are an important part of the political process even when far from home. It is just as important to know what Airmen can and cannot do as a member of the military.

Airmen are important representatives of the government and of the Department of Defense. There are regulations in place to ensure the DoD does not influence national elections.

Members of the Armed Forces are allowed to vote and privately express their opinions on political candidates and issues and can make donations to political organizations, but may not do so as representatives of the military.

Service-members may encourage other military members to exercise their voting rights, but cannot attempt to influence or interfere with the outcome of an election or encourage subordinates to vote for or against a particular issue or candidate.

Signing of petitions for specific legislative action or a petition to place a candidate's name on an official election ballot is permitted. Members may not identify themselves as a member of the military by rank or duty title.

The writing of letters to the editor of a newspaper expressing personal views on public issues or political candidates is permitted as long as such action is not part of an organized letter-writing campaign. Again, Airmen may not identify themselves by rank or duty title. If they are otherwise reasonably identifiable as a member of the Armed Forces, the letter should clearly state that the views expressed are individual views and not those of the Air Force or DoD.

Bumper stickers may be displayed on privately owned vehicles, but may not be displayed on government or official vehicles.

The following activities are prohibited by the Joint Ethics Regulation, DoD Regulations, Air Force Instructions and federal law. Violation of these rules may result in criminal penalties or disciplinary action.

Members may not use their official authority, influence or government resources including e-mail, to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, encourage votes for a particular candidate or issue or ask for political contributions from others.

Participation in any radio, television or other program or group discussion as an advocate of a partisan political party or candidate is prohibited, as is attending partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces.

Soliciting or fundraising in federal offices, facilities or military reservations for a partisan political cause or candidate is not permitted.

Members cannot participate in any organized effort to provide voters with transportation to the polls if the effort is organized by a partisan political party or candidate while in uniform or as a representative as the military.

Under Article 88 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, military officers may not publicly disrespect or undermine certain elected officials, federal secretaries or congress.

Partisan political activities are actions that show support for a particular political party or candidate. For example, an Airman may not participate in a rally supporting a candidate, work for a candidate's election committee, run for elected office, appear in a political advertisement or otherwise officially support a candidate while in uniform or as a representative of the armed forces.

Civilian and military personnel may generally express their personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, much the same as they would be permitted to 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.