DoD to Civilian Staff: Wait a Few More Weeks to Break Out the MAGA Hats, Biden Pins

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A woman wears a Biden-Harris campaign shirt.
A woman wears a Biden-Harris campaign shirt as she and others gather at the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, the morning after incumbent President Donald Trump was defeated by his Democratic challenger President-elect Joe Biden. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Pentagon is reminding civilian employees that they must wait until states officially certify election results before they can legally sport "Make America Great Again" or "Biden-Harris" gear.

Even as the 2020 election cycle comes to a close, displaying a "sign reading 'Trump-Pence' or 'Biden-Harris' [is not] permitted until the results of the current election have been certified," according to a release from the Defense Department on Tuesday.

While U.S. troops are bound by fairly strict rules prohibiting them from partisan endorsements -- they are allowed to vote and participate in political gatherings as a citizen, but barred from political shows of support bigger than a bumper sticker -- the rules are a bit more relaxed for civilians who work for the DoD.

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"After Election Day, with a few exceptions such as runoff elections, the Hatch Act does not prohibit civilian employees from wearing or displaying a former candidate's campaign items while they are on duty, as long as the individual is no longer actively seeking partisan political office," the release states.

But officials are making clear that that applies only to past elections, such as "'Gore-Lieberman' or 'Bush-Cheney' because their presidential candidacies have ended."

By law, the Electoral College casts its votes on the "Monday after the second Wednesday in December" to bring the election process to a close. This year, that falls on Dec. 14.

Military members and DoD civilian employees are already limited in what kinds of political activities they can participate in. The Hatch Act prevents federal employees from participating in such activities on the job, while troops are governed by DoD Directive 1344.10. Under that directive, members cannot "solicit or engage in partisan fundraiser activities, serve as the sponsor of a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering," the release adds.

Active-duty troops, Guardsmen and reservists also cannot wear their military uniforms to a political function or campaign.

On Wednesday, Axios reported that President Donald Trump's reelection campaign could try to swing the Electoral College vote -- which typically aligns with the popular vote in each state -- by blocking state secretaries from certifying votes for Democtratic challenger Joe Biden, especially in states where vote counts have come into question. Each state has its own deadline to complete certification of election results.

Major news networks and The Associated Press declared Biden the winner Nov. 7 after they called Pennsylvania for him, putting him at 273 electoral votes; 270 votes are needed to win. Biden led by 34,458 votes in Pennsylvania when the state was called for him, but vote counting continues.

Trump campaign officials have filed multiple lawsuits to contest election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona and Georgia.

But judges have already dismissed some of the lawsuits; others in key battleground states -- where the campaign has alleged voter fraud and is suing to block official results in favor of Biden -- are pending.

Trump has requested a hand recount in Georgia. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday granted that request, announcing Georgia would conduct a manual recount across its 159 counties.

Prior to the election cycle, the Pentagon told troops to refrain from political activity and commentary implying endorsement of a particular candidate.

While the DoD encourages its personnel and eligible family members to register and participate in the voting process, including contributing to a political party or candidate, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a memorandum in February stating that employees must uphold the military's "longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical as we carry out official responsibilities."

Trump fired Esper earlier this week following the election. The president named Christopher C. Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to replace Esper.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Joe Biden Has Been Elected President. Here's What That Means for the Military

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