Election Day comes in less than a week.

As American citizens, the Department of the Army encourages federal employees and Soldiers to vote -- particularly as defenders of that right. But there are 3 things Soldiers and Civilians need to keep in mind when heading to the polls Nov. 6.

Make time to vote on Election Day

Voting is not intended to be done on government time unless a reasonable alternative cannot be found. Excused absence will not be authorized for those who desire to vote in an election or a referendum on a civic matter if they can reasonably reach their polling place in time before or after their tour of duty.

To facilitate registration and voting without disrupting duty, the Office of Personnel Management has established two bands of time for voting on election day. The first band begins when the polls open and extends 3 hours after opening. The second band begins three hours before the polls close. Employees who cannot reasonably reach the polling place on their own time may be excused and allowed to report late to work within the first time band or leave work early within the second time band, whichever results in the lesser amount of time off. In most cases, excused absence will not be necessary.

For example, where polling is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. an employee who works 7:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. may be excused at 4 p.m. to vote. This allows the employee 3 hours before the polls close and results in the employee being absent from their workplace the least amount of time.

An employee working 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. would not be excused from duty to vote since he has more than 3 hours after the end of his duty hours to vote before the polls close.

If an employee works 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and chooses to vote as soon as the polls open, then reporting to work at 8 a.m. would not entitle her to an excused absence from 7 to 8 a.m. since the polls are still open more than 3 hours after the end of scheduled work hours. That employee would be required to request annual leave or leave without pay for 7 to 8 a.m. The request must be made in advance and would be subject to the supervisor's approval.

Poll closing times can be found at http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/State_Poll_Opening_and_Closing_Times_(2012)

Federal employee Do's and Don'ts

Since our nation's inception, American Soldiers and Civilians have sacrificed for the Constitution and the right to vote in free elections.

"Voting is important because it's a right some people did not have," said Farrell Martin, IMCOM Headquarters Voting Assistance Program manager. "It's an opportunity for you to voice your opinion and vote for the person that will best represent you."

But as public servants, there are certain limitations in expressing political beliefs. The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of employees of the federal government. With election day approaching, it is imperative that all employees familiarize themselves with the do's and don'ts pertaining to political activity.

Federal employees may:

• Be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
• Register and vote as they choose
• Assist in voter registration drives
• Express opinions about candidates and issues
• Contribute money to political organizations
• Attend political fundraising functions
• Attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
• Join and be an active member of a political party or club
• Sign nominating petitions
• Campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments and municipal ordinances
• Campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
• Make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
• Distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
• Hold office in political clubs or parties

Federal employees may not:

• Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
• Solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
• Solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
• Be candidates for public office in partisan elections
• Engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle
- Wear partisan political buttons on duty

Voting Assistance Officers and the Federal Voting Assistance Program

IMCOM employees can turn to their installation or command's Voting Assistance Officer for information on voting and registration guidelines.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program works with the Armed Services and overseas citizens groups to promote voter registration and absentee voting by conducting a Voting Emphasis Week every year. The overall goal is to deliver Federal Post Card Application forms to all unit members and their voting age family members. This will ensure every vote counts.

"Do your research and understand what issues and candidates affect you and your organization," said Martin.

And in the words of The Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Jason Evans, "It's a freedom you defend -- Vote!"