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Political Activity Guidelines For 4J Employees

Public employees must be impartial and absolutely cannot advocate for or against any political candidate or ballot measure in our roles as public employees, or using public resources such as our email system. Political advocacy using work time, district resources or our official capacity is not only an inappropriate use of our positions as public employees…it’s against the law.

Under Oregon elections law, as public employees, we can only share factual and impartial information, as appropriate. We CANNOT promote or oppose any candidate or ballot measure while on work time, speaking as a public employee, or using public resources. This includes use of staff time, copiers, district email, district email lists, staff or parent contact lists, your district computer or the wifi network (even outside of work hours), and any other district resource.

Please see below for a review of some relevant political activity guidelines for public employees and schools. It’s always a good idea to review these “do’s” and “don’ts” prior to an election.


Oregon election law, ORS 260.432, provides restrictions on political campaigning by public employees.

Public employees cannot use public time or resources to advocate for or against a ballot measure or a candidate. Here is a review of some state laws and guidelines that public employees and public agencies, including schools, must follow regarding ballot measures or candidates. These rules apply whenever there is an election.

1. State Law on Political Activity by Public Employees

Public agencies and public employees cannot use any public time or resources to advocate for or against a ballot measure or a candidate. This includes use of our email system or other school communication channels to send information.

ORS 260.432(2) states:

“No public employee shall solicit any money, influence, service or other thing of value or otherwise promote or oppose any political committee or promote or oppose the nomination or election of a candidate, the gathering of signatures on an initiative, referendum or recall petition, the adoption of a measure or the recall of a public office holder while on the job during working hours. However, this section does not restrict the right of a public employee to express personal political views.”

2. Examples of Prohibited Activities: 

  • We cannot use 4J email or computers or internet access for political activity, even if it is outside of regular working hours.
  • We cannot prepare or distribute written material, post website information, or send email that advocates for or against a candidate or ballot measure.
  • We cannot attach to school newsletters or send home with students any materials that advocate or announce a position on a candidate or ballot measure, even if the flyer or material is prepared by an outside group and given to students or staff by a volunteer.
  • We cannot include messages such as “Support Candidate Y” or “Vote Yes on Measure X” in email messages, school newsletters, or bulletin boards.
  • We cannot provide access to our facilities unless we are providing the same opportunity to groups on either side of a ballot measure or candidates for public office. Access to facilities must follow the facilities rental process.

3. Examples of Allowable Activities:

  • Distribution of neutral and objective information is allowed. The district and its employees may only provide factual, neutral, and objective information about elections. When there is a measure on the ballot that directly impacts schools, the district and its employees can provide factual and impartial information about the ballot measure and the impact it would have for the school district—in such cases the district will provide impartial information materials for distribution.
  • A school may encourage parents and adult students to vote and may make voter registration materials available.
  • A school’s parent group may sponsor a candidate forum if it is open to all candidates. All candidates filed for the same office must be invited to participate. (The forum may still be held even if one or more candidates choose not to attend.)
  • A school’s parent group may invite advocates for or against a ballot measure to speak at a school parent group meeting.  If a school parent group has an information table at a school activity, they may have information for and/or against ballot measures on the information table. It is important to provide the same opportunities to opposing sides of a ballot measure, if requested.
  • When on their own off-duty time, not acting in their role, and not using any public resources, public employees may advocate political positions, send letters to the editor, and participate in any other lawful political activity. Staff are advised to make clear that they are not speaking in their official capacity. Salaried public employees are advised to keep records to verify that such political activity occurred while off duty.
  • Staff can wear buttons on their physical persons that endorse particular political candidates, parties or measures, or display a campaign slogan, provided that it is not disruptive to the educational environment, per Oregon Administrative Rule ORS 260.432. This is a narrow, limited exception to the prohibition on political advocacy by public employees in their official roles. (Of course, staff may not distribute buttons, or encourage others to wear them, at work or on work time.)

The Secretary of State provides a guide on ORS 260.432: “Restrictions on Political Campaigning for Public Employees that address additional prohibited and allowable activities.

If you have a question about whether a particular action or communication is allowed, please ask your supervisor or 4J Communications Director, Jenna McCulley, or 541-913-1244.

Thank you for your attention to keeping yourself on the right side of Oregon elections laws!