Anecdote: did I witness a violation of the Hatch Act?

(I was originally going to post this to GQ, but I realized that a question of the law would be under discussion, so IMHO, it is! :))

In 1984, I was serving aboard the USS Tautog (SSN 639) out of SUBASE, Pearl Harbor. That was the year we ran a WESTPAC cruise. When we returned from the cruise, we either did weekly operations in local waters, or spent the work week performing in-port maintenance on the boat.

During a week that we were in port, the Plan of the Day would have us beginning the day with a muster on the dock, beside the submarine. This was to establish that everyone was present and to have an opportunity to promulgate important information to the crew, and was normally presided over by the COB (Chief of the Boat, ranking enlisted man in the crew). It was also used for certain announcements, such as a crew member earning his dolphins, or being frocked to the next-higher rank that he had been awarded, based on his test scores.

Well, one morning in early October (IIRC), the COB gave a little speech at morning muster. He noted that a lot of the crew that probably recently received their absentee ballots, and had some decisions to make about how they were going to cast their votes. He made a point of saying that he wasn’t going to tell anyone how to vote, but to keep in mind that, in terms of “taking care of” military service members, and seeing to it that their benefits were kept as high as possible, the Republican Party had the better track record.

Now, in 1984, I was not yet a member of the SDMB, and I didn’t know from the Hatch Act of 1939. I did have the uncomfortable sense that the COB’s little PSA was at least vaguely improper.

It was a violation of the Hatch Act, wasn’t it?

IMHO, yes.

Some lawyer will probably pop up and say no… but this thread is in IMHO for now, and that is IMHO.


Per the Wikipedia page on the Hatch Act, it does not appear to be a violation of the Hatch Act, but may run afoul of DoD directives.

But I can’t find any evidence that DoDD 1344.10 was issued before June 1990, so if the timeline of OP’s story is correct, it wouldn’t have applied.

ETA: found reference that the 1990 revision was an update to a 1986 issuance. Still chasing backwards in time.

Too late to ETAA: 1986 seems to be the end of the line, as far as Web-based archaeology goes. Still after the anecdote, so may not have been a violation of any law or regulation in force at the time. But terribly bad form.

Answered correctly above: no. The Hatch Act does not apply to DoD military.