FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—The Biden administration carved out paid administrative leave to encourage federal bureaucrats and other employees—seen as a loyal Democrat constituency—to volunteer as poll workers. 

The administration also requires federal agencies to grant four hours of leave for voting to employees, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project obtained the documents. The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation. 

“In recent years, more and more private sector employers have provided time off to their employees to vote,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja writes in a memo made public through the FOIA. “With more than 2.1 million civilian employees, the federal government is the largest employer in the nation. As such, the federal government has the opportunity to serve as a model employer and set an example for other employers to follow.”

Ahuja’s memo, which she issued March 24, 2022, ahead of that year’s midterm elections, continues: 

Agencies should allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave for voting in connection with each election event (including primaries and caucuses) at the federal, state, local (i.e., county and municipal), tribal, and territorial level that does not coincide with a federal general election day. (If an election simultaneously involves more than one level, it is considered to be a single election event.) This administrative leave may be used for voting on the established election day or for early voting, whichever option is used by the employee with respect to an election event. … 

Agencies should also allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave per leave year to serve as a non-partisan poll worker or to participate in non-partisan observer activities at the federal, state, local (i.e., county and municipal), tribal, and territorial level. … This leave is in addition to any administrative leave an employee uses to vote.  

President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14019 in March 2021 to push federal agencies to promote voter participation. 

The initiative includes the Department of Homeland Security’s registration of voters during naturalization ceremonies, the Department of Education’s promotion of voting in high schools and colleges, and agencies’ work with private, nonprofit organizations to increase voter turnout. 

Biden’s executive order prompted suspicion among some Republican lawmakers, who said they were concerned that federal agencies’ engagement in boosting turnout would violate laws such as the Hatch Act, which prohibits partisan political activity using federal resources and time.

“The Office of Personnel Management implementation of Biden’s disastrous EO 14019 is another example of Democrats interfering in state election policy and pushing for nationalization of our elections,” Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., co-chair of the House Election Integrity Caucus, told The Daily Signal. 

An OPM spokesperson did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal for this report before publication.

‘Split’ for Federal Employees

Federal employees are spread across the United States and do not lean in one direction, said Jacqueline Simon, policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employees union, which counts 750,000 members. 

“The members of our union are split down the middle, Democrat, Republican, and independent,” Simon told The Daily Signal. “This is really just about giving federal employees the opportunity to vote. Many federal employees, during their work schedule, must drive long distances from work [to and from] their polling station. So four hours is a maximum. They would have to show their supervisor it would take that time to travel and wait in line.”

During the 2022 election cycle, the American Federation of Government Employees political action committee gave 94.6% of contributions to Democratic candidates, according to Open Secrets, which monitors money in politics. Those contributions amounted to $712,725 to Democrats, compared with $40,000 to Republican candidates. 

The union’s numbers in 2020 were similar, with $818,868 in contributions going to Democrats—or 94.5%—compared to $43,115 to Republicans. 

Yet the AFGE’s PAC represents less than 1% of total union membership, Simon said, noting that the PAC’s donations are based on how a member votes, not on party. 

“If a Republican supports legislation we endorse, they are eligible for a PAC donation. If a Democrat opposes legislation we endorse, they are not eligible for a PAC donation,” Simon said. She added: “Our members include Border Patrol, Department of Defense civilian employees, a lot of law enforcement. We have lots and lots of Republicans.”

In the 2022 election cycle, the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees Association PAC contributed $693,500 to Democrats, fully 85% of its contributions, compared to $116,500 for Republicans. 

The National Association of Letter Carriers PAC donations were less lopsided in the 2022 election cycle, with 73%—or $1.4 million—to Democrats compared to 26%—or $514,000—to Republicans.

The National Treasury Employees Union PAC gave $509,000—or 95%—to Democrats and $22,000—or 4.14%—to Republicans in the cycle. 

A much closer example is the Federal Aviation Administration Managers Association, which gave $169,000, or 58%, to Democrats compared with $120,500, or 41%, to Republicans.  

Open Secrets also breaks down donations by federal agency. 

Political donations by State Department employees cut in favor of Democrats, who got a 77% share.  Justice Department employees who made political donations gave 76% to Democrats. Similarly, 74% of contributions by employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs were to Democrats. 

Among employees of the Department of Homeland Security who contributed to politicians, 70% gave to Democrats, as did 63% of Defense Department employees who donated to candidates. 

However, a poll last fall suggested that federal employees’ actual voting might not reflect Democrats’ big advantage in contributions from government employee PACs.

The poll by Government Executive magazine found that 46% of respondents said they planned to vote for a Democrat in their local House race, and 35% planned to vote for a Republican. The rest were committed to neither candidate. 

The margin was closer for Senate races, with 37% of those polled saying they planned to vote for the Democrat candidate compared to 33% for the Republican, with the remainder undecided or without a Senate race in their state. 

“The federal bureaucracy is obviously overwhelmingly supportive of the Democratic Party,” Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Oversight Project, which obtained the documents, told The Daily Signal. 

“It’s no accident they are trying to enlist one of the largest voting blocs of government workers in their direction,” Howell said. “They would never go out and ask the Daughters of the American Revolution to sign up as election workers, or listeners to Joe Rogan’s podcast. They’re asking the government-paid-for, mostly useless, bureaucrats that are already draining so much from our country.”

Hatch Act Concerns

Many congressional Republicans, as well as government watchdog groups, expressed concern about federal agencies’ engaging in partisan political activity under Biden’s executive order in violation of laws such as the Hatch Act. 

The documents released under FOIA also showed two federal agencies—the Farm Credit Administration and the Farm Credit Systems Insurance Corporation—explaining to employees how the benefit would work for Maryland’s elections. 

“FCA and FCSIC employees may use up to four hours of administrative leave to vote today in Maryland’s local primaries,” according to a memo to employees dated July 19, 2022. “For information on where to vote, see the Voting Location Lookup by the Maryland State Board of Elections. When coding your timecard, use transaction code 66 for administrative leave.”

A follow-up memo Aug. 29, 2022, warned employees against violating the Hatch Act, the federal law prohibiting partisan political activity using government resources or time. The memo was from Heather LoPresti, a deputy ethics official at the Farm Credit Administration.

“The Hatch Act applies to all partisan elections, whether federal, state, or local. All FCA and FCSIC employees are subject to Hatch Act restrictions, with some differences for FCA board members,” LoPresti’s memo said. “While certain activities are restricted, the Hatch Act does not prohibit employees from exercising their right to vote, or participating in partisan political management or campaigns.”

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