Political campaigns cannot post signs along the state’s right of way in Idaho. Likewise, campaigns should not affix signs to trees, telephone poles, fence lines and other state property that falls within the right of way.
The right of way varies but using telephone poles and other Idaho Department of Transportation property that lies within the right of way is a good guide to understand where campaigns can and cannot put signs. The state right of way varies along highways depending upon the where private property lines begins, the road way itself, and ITD equipment along the road.
In states where campaigns cannot post signs along the highways, it’s even more important to keep to the best practice of putting signs up on private property with the property owners permission. This is not only the legal way but the most effective distribution technique. Putting signs on private property will not only increase thecandidate’s name recognition but indicate to friends and neighbors who the property owner is supporting.
Placing a political yard sign on public property or on the state’s right of way is illegal in Texas. The Department of Transportation will remove any election signs illegally placed in the right of way especially those affixed to trees, traffic signs, and telephone poles.
The Department also has guidelines for private property owners who wish to post campaign yard signs. Private property owners can put signs out up to 90 days before Election Day and must remove them within 10 days following the election. Texas DOT also requires the signs be lightweight and less than 50 square feet.
Finally, if the Department of Transportation deems the sign on private property to be a traffic hazard, the Department will remove the campaign yard sign without warning and charge the sign’s owner removal fees.
If the campaign sign is meant to be seen from any roadway, it must include a right of way notice. According to Section 255.007 of the Texas state code, the exact language must read:
NOTICE: IT IS A VIOLATION OF STATE LAW
(CHAPTERS 392 AND 393, TRANSPORTATION CODE)
TO PLACE THIS SIGN IN THE RIGHT-OF-WAY OF A HIGHWAY.
If you’ve been elected for some time and have signs from before September 1, 1997, those signs have a different citation. These signs’ official notice is grandfathered in and you may post those signs with the out of date notice.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has a clearcut prohibition on campaign yard signs in the right of way. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand where the right of way ends on a state road. It’s helpful to look for physical markers. Telephone polls, fencelines, and any state-maintained property along the road is a good indication that you are still within the state’s right of way.
If the candidate, staff, volunteers, or supporters post signs along the Kansas right of way, departments crews will immediately remove the offending signs and take it to the closest subarea. The exception to this is if crews find a sign following the election. Any signs removed after Election Day will be disposed of.
During the campaign season, however, campaigns can pick up any signs that have been removed by the Department of Transportation at the nearest subarea from where the volunteer put out the sign.
According to Ohio law, only the Ohio Department of Transportation traffic signs are authorized on the state’s right of way. This means that campaign yard signs are prohibited from Ohio’s right of way.
The Department has jurisdiction over all interstates, Ohio state routes, and U.S. routes on the state’s highway system. ODOT, however, doesn’t have jurisdiction inside city and village limits.
The Ohio Department of Transportation will remove any signs that are found along the right of way. The Department’s crews will then take the lawn signs to the nearest county garage facility to be picked up by the campaign or sign’s owner. The campaign has up to thirty days to pick up the sign or risk having the yard signs thrown out.
According to the Nebraska Department of Roads, “frequently, over zealous campaign workers place signs where they violate state and/or federal laws. In some instances, illegal signs pose a threat to public safety, especially where they appear in intersections, medians, on bridges, utility poles or along side walks. Other times signs are placed on public property or private property without the owner’s permission.”
In Nebraska, it is unlawful to post elections signs in the right of way. The state right of way varies depending upon the road, private property lines, and other factors, so sometimes it’s difficult to understand where the right of way ends. To help determine where the right of way ends, look for telephone poles, fence lines, and other landmarks, which are always in the right of way. Be sure to place signs outside of these Department maintained structures.
Campaign signs are a Class III advertising sign. This type of sign is permitted in zoned and unzoned commercial or industrial areas but require a permit from the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Maintenance crews will remove any signs that are improperly posted. The Roads Department will store the signs for a brief period of time for you to retrieve the yard signs. Contact your local maintenance station to be sure that the Department has the signs and to arrange pick up. If you do not contact the Roads Department quickly, they will dispose of the campaign yard signs.
State law prohibits candidate signs on highway rights of way and on overpasses according to the state code, 69 O.S. 1208 (b). Even within city limits, it is still unlawful to post signs on state-maintained highways, overpasses, and bridges.
More than $4 million dollars and many volunteer hours are spent cleaning up trash, signs, and other debris from the road ways in addition to municipal government expenses. Following the state law reduces these costs.
In addition to reducing costs to the government, the state has instituted these requirements to reduce distracted driving along the state right of way and reduce the risk to the candidate, staff, volunteers, and supporters who might stop along the state road ways to post a sign, which is dangerous.
Phil Busse, admitted to stealing yard signs on a Huffington Post piece that he wrote. He explains where he steals signs and why:
“The biggest sign I stole was also the grandest thrill. It was 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening and there was a good chance the homeowners were awake. I drove by once and could see at least one light on inside the house. As a safety feature, newer models of Subarus do not allow the driver to leave the engine running and to turn off all exterior lights. The parking lights burned orange as I hustled up the small grass embankment. Inside, I could see a TV flickering blue light.”
But the article also talks about other yard sign thieves and the uproar around it. One yard sign thief, for example, was shot!
Phil was a visiting professor at St. Olaf College, former candidate for mayor of Portland, and has volunteered on campaigns in the past. Was is the operative word since he was soon dismissed following from his teaching job following the post. This wasn’t his first gaffe, however, having had issues with a salon.com post.
There are two interesting parts of this continuing story. The first is that stealing yard signs is an emotional issue. Phil Busse knew that it wasn’t going to make a major difference in the campaign if he stole signs but he did it anyway. What he didn’t foresee was the outcry following his admission. There are some strongly worded comments in the Huffington Post article and on forums throughout the internet!
With that said, politics is also a business of second chances. His nonprofit is apparently still doing well and he has also had another stint as a political professional.
Arkansas’s regulations is place and simple: do not place yard signs in the state right of way. This is a blanket restriction on outdoor signage not just campaign signs.
According to a press release from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department:
Small “yard” signs that are placed on the right of way will be removed by AHTD personnel. Owners of large “billboard” type signs will be notified and given an opportunity to remove the signs before AHTD removes them. Owners can pick up the signs during normal business hours at the nearest AHTD Area Maintenance Headquarters.
The best strategy for political sign distribution in Arkansas is to keep them to private property. Campaigns won’t have to worry about infringing upon the state regulations and signs are most effective when they are also an individual’s endorsement of the candidate.
The Utah Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over most laws governing campaign yard signs in the state. Candidates, campaign staff, and supporters may not post yard signs in the state’s right of way according to U.C.A. 72-7-102.
The Department often finds signs illegally placed in th right of way on:
* Election sign wires
* Utility poles
* Sign posts
Most utility poles and traffic signs are within Utah’s right of way, so they are a good visual aid to understand where the right of way lies.
UDOT has the authority (U.C.A 72-7-104) to remove or require the removal of campaign yard signs that are within the Department’s right of way. If the Department of Transportation issues a written notice to your campaign, you have ten days to remove the offending signs or risk having the Department remove the signs and charge you for the costs incurred to remove the signs and $100 for each day the signs remained posted following the day the Department served the written notice.
Since the Department does not remove candidate signs for ten days, the campaign will face a fine of $1,000 per sign and the cost associated with removal of them. Fewer than ten illegally posted signs would result in a five figure cost to the campaign!
Imagine the worst case scenario where the campaign put out hundreds of signs along the state’s right of way and eleven days out from Election Day the candidate receives a notice from the Department of Transportation that the signs must be removed within ten days or face fines and removal.
When the campaign needs to focus on getting out voters, the candidate, volunteers, and supporters will instead be centering their attention on removing signs or risk devastating fines.
The Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner is responsible for enforcing the provisions of Va. Code Ann. § 33.1-373, which prohibits all forms of outdoor signage along the state’s right of way with exceptions for signs in emergency situations and the Commission’s own traffic signs.
Virginia Code Ann. § 33.1-373 (2005) assesses a $100 penalty for any election sign within the state’s right of way. The code points out that signs cannot be affixed to any of the following in the right of way:
* Rock or stone
* Tree or stump
* Mile-board or milestone
* Danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost, highway sign
* Historical marker
* Any other object within the state’s right of way
If an overzealous supporter staples signs to telephone polls one afternoon, the campaign could face thousands of dollars in fines.
If you have any questions about the outdoor signage law or notice an illegally placed sign, call the Virginia Transportation Commission at 703-383-8368, TTY 711.