Why should you follow the campaign sign regulations in Kentucky? Firstly, the risk is too great financially and politically. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet removes all illegally placed signage on the state highway and in the Commonwealth’s right of way more generally. For safety’s sake, to avoid losing your signs and all of the money and time involved with them, and to prevent the political fallout from negative press or attacks for your opponent for violating the law, follow Kentucky’s yard sign rules.
These problems do impact campaigns. Take, for example, the independent expenditures from “Retire Mitch” campaign run by FreedomWorks in 2014. FreedomWorks is spent a half million dollars on this campaign, and some of it was lost by yard signs that were removed by Louisville city workers because they were illegally posted in the local right of way and someone notified city government about the offending signs. This is a practical example of yard sign politics and loss of campaign resources in action.
Kentucky Yard Sign Regulations
State law in Kentucky and the Transportation Cabinet prohibit the placement of political campaign signs on Commonwealth’s right of way. Campaign signs and other illegally placed temporary advertising signs will be removed, including signs attached to utility poles or fences within the area.
There is a reason for this. Political signs can be a threat to the safety of drivers. The wires used to support the signs can create hazards for the public if they are accidentally hit. Also, temporary advertising signs near intersections and driveways in Kentucky are forbidden for this reason. All signs should be posted behind sidewalks and beyond the ditch line in areas without sidewalks. Campaign signs should also be outside the areas commonly mowed by highway crews.
Further, on four-lane highways with controlled access or limited access in Kentucky, it is forbidden to place signs along the side of the highway or on the fence itself.
These illegally placed election signs picked up by highway crews are moved to the state highway garage in each county. Candidates or campaign representatives may reclaim them by completing a claim form and showing their identification. Unclaimed signs, on the other hand, are discarded after five working days.
In short, in Kentucky you may not place a sign in the public right-of-way. You also need a sign permit.
When are you required to obtain a permit? A sign permit is required before the installation, relocation, expansion, construction or structural alteration of any sign. You’ll also need to pay a $10 permit fee. Political signs are limited to 8 square feet and one sign per candidate, per lot with the bottom of the sign no higher than 2 feet from ground level.
Which signs are prohibited? In Kentucky, some signs are prohibited during the election. This is a list of those signs:
- Flashing or blinking
- Mobile signs
- Moving, rotating or flapping signs
- Signs lettered in a crude or amateurish fashion
- Inflatable signs and tethered balloons
- Vehicles or trailers (operable or inoperable), which contain advertising and are not used in the daily conduct of business
- Off-premises signage
According to the Kentucky Secretary of State website, electioneering is prohibited within 300 feet of any polling place on Election Day including posting signs within the space surrounding the polling place. Kentucky law, however, does permit voters to show up to the polls with a bumper sticker in support of a candidate on your car.
Local Yard Sign Regulations
Enforcement of the sign prohibition and laws regarding sign placement in Kentucky can be slightly different because right-of-way boundaries can vary by highway and location.
Local governments may apply additional restrictions on size and shape of campaign yard signs, but also on the period political candidates can place their signs on their lawn to name a couple of possible local sign ordinance restrictions.
If you place your sign on the state’s right of way or at times, places, or a manner that is against the state code, Kentucky Transportation Crews will remove them. If the Commonwealth removes your signs, what was the point? Your voters won’t see the signs, you won’t get the benefit of increase candidate name recognition, and you risk financial and political losses. If your campaign wants to realize the political advantages of campaign signs, you’ll need to adhere to the state and local laws that affect them. Do the right thing by your state and your candidacy, follow your sign regulations.
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.