Military rules prohibit partisan political activity
Posted November 4, 2008
Fort Bragg, N.C. — While both John McCain and Barack Obama and many other political candidates have publicly expressed support for U.S. troops throughout their campaigns, none of the troops living on post at Fort Bragg can return the favor.
Army Regulation 600 prohibits active-duty military members from displaying signs for or against individual candidates or other public expressions of partisan political activity.
"We are soldiers. We are the U.S. Army. We work for the president. We work for the U.S. population. We cannot be seen as favoring one candidate over another," Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said.
Bumper stickers are allowed because soldiers' vehicles are considered private property, but yard signs are prohibited under the regulation. Several soldiers living on post put up political signs this year, but Picerne Military Housing, which manages military housing for Fort Bragg, sent them letters asking that the signs be removed.
"I think it's a little frustrating because you do want to show your support. You want people to know your opinions," said Kristina Clemente, whose husband is stationed at Fort Bragg.
"We don't allow the signs because someone in a supervisory position may use that sign to influence others," McCollum said.
Military members are also prohibited from working for campaigns – including running for office – or attending political rallies in uniform. On Election Day, they are encouraged to vote, but they still can't advertise who they're supporting if they are in uniform.
"It's just the way it is," said Helen Jiminez, who lived on Fort Bragg for years but moved off post when her husband retired from the Army.
"We're off post, and I have my signs, and I proudly display them," Jimenez said.
Other political do's and don'ts for active-duty military members include the following:
- Soldiers can contribute to political campaigns, but they can't contribute to another member of the military or any civilian authorities to promote a campaign or political cause.
- Soldiers can work at a polling place when off duty and with permission of a superior, but they can't be in uniform.
- Soldiers can express their personal opinions in letters to the editor of a newspaper, but they cannot take part in an organized effort to promote a candidate.
- Soldiers cannot solicit funds for a candidate, promote fund-raising events or participate in any get-out-the-vote effort for a particular party or candidate.