Friday, September 28, 2012

The Best Politics is No Politics

Growing up in Louisiana, there were notable political legends, and epic reactions to same.  The way that Huey Long politicized the state's employees led to some fairly draconian restrictions on political activity by classified workers.  If you worked for the state or city, no yard signs.  No bumper stickers.  No political rallies.  In some ways, quite a limit on your freedom of speech.

Today, that still applies to classified workers -- unclassified are no held by that law.

Maybe they should.

Civil servants have to work with whoever gets elected.  On the sports side of college, Lou Holtz can tell you that handing out endorsements has a way of biting you.

The state of Louisiana issued its semi-annual list of thou shalt nots for classified employees during elections, and I was pleased to see the addition of the social media realm to the list.

Employees in the classified service are prohibited from engaging in political activity. Political
Activity means an effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or to
support or oppose a particular party in an election. Therefore, you cannot display political signs
in your yard, bumper stickers on your vehicle, or wear a button or pin that could be perceived as
supporting a person or party. Also, you cannot “like” a candidate or party on Facebook or follow
on Twitter or any other social media.

At the same time, I have to ask this question of the regulators.  Yes, "like" can equal endorsement, but what if a voter is simply trying to stay up with the news?  Is following both sides to make a decision?  What I believe they intended was to prevent partisan posting in the wall -- which is really your "endorsing" or "engaging" in political activity.

The regulation is intended to prevent political activity.  What this does not directly address within social media is just that.  By reading what was said, an employee can't "like" the party on Facebook, but they could share and post all the obnoxious campaign fodder they want.  Later in the circular, the commission says the very limited things a classified employee can do:

You may vote, you may be a commissioner or poll watcher, you make express your opinions
privately, and you may sign a recall petition.

Expressing opinion on Twitter much different from prohibiting someone from simply following and consuming the information.

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