Feds/Retirees Have Political Muscle

When it comes to political leanings, many Republican politicians think the majority of federal workers are Democrats. Many Democratic politicians agree. But that doesn’t mean they are correct or that federal and postal workers vote as a bloc.

But if they did…

In many states active and retired federal workers, all of whom are old enough to vote, have the power to tilt an election. Particularly a close one. In some congressional districts, Maryland, Virginia, Utah, Illinois, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and California and Washington State among them, government workers and annuitants are the balance of power.

It would be possible to argue that because of the nature of the work performed by the government (administrative and technical) and educational requirements for those jobs that feds are smarter (at least better educated) than their private sector neighbors.

But that would be wrong…

In congressional districts around Washington, D.C., politicians of both parties who want to get elected and keep getting re-elected are pro-fed. Democratic pols in Maryland and Republicans representing districts in Virginia have a long history of cooperation. They’ve pushed pro-fed, pro-retiree legislation through Congress no matter who controlled the White House. And they’ve boosted the amount of pay raises proposed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama almost every year.

There are primaries today in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

According to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, West Virginia has just over 14,000 federal workers and slightly more than 38,000 federal retirees. A 2009 report by Federally Employed Women in 2009 put the number of retirees at 18,444. Either way that’s a lot of voters in a state with a fairly small population.

Democratic pundit James Carville once described Pennsylvania as “Philadelphia on one end, and Pittsburgh on the other, with Alabama in the middle,” thus insulting three regions and at least one state at the same time.

True or not, Pennsylvania has a large federal family presence. According to FEW’s numbers in 2009 there were 183,386 U.S. Government workers or people retired from federal civilian service. That’s a lot of voters in a small or big state.

Arkansas, according to NARFE, has 24,591 federal retirees and 14,139 active duty civilian federal workers.

Most of the candidates endorsed by federal unions are Democrats. Under revised Hatch Act rules (liberalized during the Clinton administration) federal and postal workers can participate in the political process with certain restrictions.

Here’s a partial list of Hatch Act Do’s and Don’ts. You can find much more info at the Hatch Act page of the Office of Special Counsel’s website.

Permitted Activities:

    May be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
    May register and vote as they choose
    May assist in voter registration drives
    May express opinions about candidates and issues
    May contribute money to political organizations
    May attend political fundraising functions
    May attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
    May join and be an active member of a political party or club
    May sign nominating petitions
    May campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
    May campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
    May make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
    May distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
    May hold office in political clubs or parties including serving as a delegate to a convention

Prohibited Activities:

    May not use their official authority or influence to interfere with an election
    May not solicit, accept or receive political contributions unless both individuals are members of the same Federal labor organization or employee organization and the one solicited is not a subordinate employee
    May not knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency
    May not engage in political activity while on duty
    May not engage in political activity in any government office
    May not engage in political activity while wearing an official uniform
    May not engage in political activity while using a government vehicle
    May not be candidates for public office in partisan elections
    May not wear political buttons on duty

As they say in Chicago (and lots of other places) vote early. And often!

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


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