The Unwise and Unconstitutional Hatch Act: Why State and Local Government Employees Should Be Free to Run for Public Office
Southern Illinois University Law Journal, Vol. 34, p. 313, 2010
46 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2009 Last revised: 22 Dec 2010
Date Written: August 5, 2009
Every year, state and local government employees announce their intent to run for public office only to be told that an obscure Great Depression-era law requires that they choose between their job and their campaign. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from running for partisan office and similarly prohibits any state and local employee from running if their position receives any federal funds. This prohibition applies even when there is no apparent conflict of interest or abuse of power. Given the number of federal employees, and the number of federal grants to state and local governments, millions of covered employees are effectively prohibited from running for public office. At the same time, many elections in this country go uncontested and communities suffer from a lack of quality candidates.
The Unwise and Unconstitutional Hatch Act focuses on the federal law’s coverage of state and local employees and examines whether the Act would pass constitutional muster under modern tests, whether the Hatch Act is desirable as a matter of policy, and what alternatives could achieve the policy goals of the Act without an absolute prohibition on candidacy for partisan office.
Keywords: Hatch Act, candidacy restriction, state and local government employees, public employee political activity
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