What was the significance of the Hatch Act (1939)?
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The significance of the Hatch Act (passed in 1939) is that it helps to maintain the public trust in our executive branch. It does this by preventing members of the executive branch from participating in partisan politics.
Before the Hatch Act, it was legal for members of the executive branch to engage in partisan political activities. This meant, for example, government workers might go around trying to get out the vote for a given candidate. It also meant that government workers might be hired on the basis of partisan politics. This was bad for the country because it reduced trust in government. Our government workers ought to be doing their jobs as well as they can, helping people regardless of their political affiliation. We should never have to feel, for example, that we might not get a certain government benefit unless we listen to a government worker’s pitch for a given political candidate. We also do not want government officials who are hired for political reasons, not because they are well-qualified for their job.
The Hatch Act was significant because it removed members of the federal executive branch from partisan politics, thus “cleaning up” government to a degree.
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits any government employee from participating in political activities such as canvassing or intimidating, influencing or affecting the voters by any means. This act provides the much needed assurance to the public of the political-neutrality of government employees (at federal, state and local levels). Some federal employees, such as the President, Vice-President and some others are exempt from this prohibition. This act ensures that government employees do not influence the voters or promise any government decision, action or job to coerce the voters into supporting one or the other political party. The Act also prohibits the use of any federal funds for political purposes or benefits.
The Act has also come under severe criticism for possible curtailment of the First Amendment Rights of employees, yet it provides some transparency in the conduct of employees.
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