Tuesday, of course, is election day. Most of the people who do the voting here are federal workers. They not only will help pick a president, but they also will be voting on who will be their boss for the next four years. b
Every time there is an election some of our town's 350,000 feds get confused over what they can and can't do under the Hatch Act.That 1939 law was designed to insulate the bureaucracy from partisan political pressures, and to keep federal workers from taking -- or being forced to take -- active roles in partisan campaigns. The operative word here is "active."
There are many things government workers can do in the election process. Here is a rundown of some of the dos and don'ts under the Hatch Act:
A) You can vote! And you can wear a button or have a political sticker on your car, subject of individual agency rules. (For example if you are a tax consultant who meets the public it would be unwise to wear a Reagan button. If you are a Social Security assistant dealing with the public, nix on the Carter tie clasp. If you are a guard in a federal building meeting the public, do not wear an Anderson beanie.)
B) You cannot haul people to the polls to vote. But you can stop off and vote if you are the driver or a member of a car pool, and those with you can vote without it being a federal offense.
C) You may attend political rallies, parties or the like, but don't take a leading role, and don't sell tickets for partisan functions.
D) If a boss, or colleague, puts the bite on you for a political contribution on federal property, run, don't walk, to the general counsel's office to report it. As an individual, you may give money to a political party or organization.
E) You can, of course, be a loyal Democrat, Republican, Whig or whatever. But do not take an active role in party affairs, be a candidate in a partisan election, manage such a campaign or collect money for it.
Time off to vote -- Uncle Sam tries to make it as easy as possible for employes to vote. The general rule is this: You may have excused leave to vote 3 hours after the polls open, or leave work up to 3 hours before the polls close, whichever requires less time off. In most cases employes will have enough time before or after work to vote without being given extra time off. Here are the voting hours locally:
Polls in the District open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m . . . . Polls in Virginia open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. . . . Polls in Maryland open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Most people will have thre hours clear time either before or after work to vote, but if not they can be given time off.
Flexible work hour voters -- Thousands of government employes here now work under flexitime, which permits them to set their own hours. For them, the time-off rule says that on election day the 3-hour time off applies to the "typical" work schedule. Check with your agency for what that is, and what it means.