Tennessee has a few regulations related to yard signs that campaigns should follow to the stay on the right side of the law and to avoid any potential political attacks from the other candidate or the news media.
Like many other states, it’s unlawful to place signs in the state’s right of way or along the median of the road. Campaigns should also avoid posting road signs on utility poles or on signage, such as traffic signals, that are along the side of the road.
Tennessee Yard Sign Regulations
In general, Tennessee’s yard sign are easy to follow and similar to many other states.
Political campaigns can begin posting yard sign yard 90 days out from Election Day. On the other end of campaign season, state law requires that all election signs on public property, like roadsides, to be removed within three weeks following an election as opposed to lawn signs on private property, which can remain there at the discretion of the property owner except in instances where the local government, homeowners, or condo association has additional restrictions.
Backing up a few weeks from when campaigns must remove signs, there are also restrictions on where campaigns can post election signs on Election Day. According to the Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-7-111, there is 100 foot “campaign free” buffer zone in which displaying of any campaign materials including signs is prohibited. Campaign yard signs are also forbidden in on or in polling place locations. There is an exception for private property, so if you can identify a campaign supporter who is within the campaign free zone, ask them to post a sign on their property to get some really good visibility at a poll on Election Day.
Local Yard Sign Regulations
Municipal government can impose additional restrictions beyond that of state of Tennessee. Rutherford County, for example, treats political signs like any other temporary sign in their ordinance with the following restrictions:
- Signs must be removed within 48 hours of the election
- If a resident owns less than a five acre lot, the person is limited to 32 total square feet of signage, which may be divided up into a maximum of five signs. Lots over five acres have the same total square foot limit, which may be one or multiple signs.
- Political signs are limited to 6 feet in height
- Illuminating temporary signs is illegal
- Campaign signs are not allowed in the right of way
The severity and the complexity of local signs ordinances varies dramatically in Tennessee. You may live in a town that doesn’t have one at all while the next town over has a number of regulations to keep in mind.
Tennessee state yard sign regulations are simple to follow. Be careful not only to understand the laws centering on lawn signs yourself, but also to share it with campaign staff, volunteers, and all supporters. Whether or not the candidate is personally responsible or not for running afoul of sign regulations, he will be blamed for any indiscretions.
There are many campaigns that have been sunk by campaign theft and other violations. You don’t have to take my word for it, Google it! The point being is that something seemingly small can become a campaign issue if your opponent presses it. The news media is quick to latch onto any story especially in small towns, but also because there is something about a political candidate who wants to be a part of government violating the rules that government has made that resonates with the media and with voters.
Do the right thing ethically and politically: follow Tennessee’s sign laws.
Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney nor do I play one on TV. This is not legal advice or opinion. It’s simply a collection of information that I have been able to gather from online and offline sources and have applied to political campaigns.