In 2004, the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down all the regulations in the state connected to political advertising on private property as unconstitutional. There are, however, a number of regulations that remain that campaigns should be aware of. If your campaign plays fast and loose with sign regulations, you may open up the newspaper to a negative letter to the editor, find that your political opponents are using your violations against you, and more. Avoid those problems and more by understanding New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation and State campaign sign regulations.
New Hampshire Yard Sign Regulations
When it comes to placing political campaign signs in New Hampshire, the most important thing to remember is that no campaign sign is allowed to be placed on, or affixed to any public property including highways or private property without the owner’s consent. Signs may be put along the right of way, but only if they are not obstructing drivers’ view or causing any traffic hazard. Generally, campaign signs in New Hampshire may not be posted any earlier than the last Friday in July before the general election.
Knowing this regulation, you may might be tempted to fix signs that aren’t adhering to New Hampshire’s regulations, but it is equally unlawful for anyone, other than a private property owner or police officer, to remove, deface, or knowingly destroy any political advertising on a private property. Even still, a police officer may only remove improper political advertising after notifying the candidate that the sign was posted illegally and allow 24 hours for removal.
Again, here are the issues that may occur with your signs that a police officer can request removal for:
- If your sign is on public property – state, city or town maintenance or law enforcement personnel may remove it
- If your sign is on private property – the property owner or those authorized by the property owner may remove it
- And in case of improper Political Advertising such as failure to meet disclosure requirements – law enforcement personnel may remove your campaign sign.
You can make complaints concerning alleged violations of election laws prior to, during, and after an election by calling the Attorney General Civil Bureau at (603) 271-3650 or the Elections Hotline at 1-866-868-3703. In addition, complaint forms and other information about filing a complaint can be obtained on the Department of Justice’s website.
Local Yard Sign Regulations
Local laws and regulations in New Hampshire may be slightly different because right-of-way boundaries can vary
by highway and location. Local governments may also apply additional restrictions on the size and shape of campaign yard signs or the period political candidates can place their signs on private property or public land in the locality.
If you are not sure about local laws in your county, it is better to contact someone who can help you. Try contacting New Hampshire municipal association, or better yet, the individual municipality in question.
Also, check the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for more information about when and where you may place your sign.
New Hampshire is clear on their campaign sign laws: no political advertising at any public property including highway rights-of-way or private property without the owner’s consent. While there are opportunities to make it right, breaking the law could mean that your sign will be thrown out costing your campaign money and at the very least taking your time to deal with the issue.
The smartest move in political campaign game is to play it according the rules and think about your voters who might miss your message if your sign gets removed. You should also think about the troubles media and opponents would cause you if they found out you are breaking the law.
So let’s recap where you can’t post a campaign sign in New Hampshire:
- Public property – no political signs may be placed or affixed to any public property including highway rights-of-way
- Private property without permission – you need to obtain the owner’s consent
- Utility poles/highway signs – no campaign signs are allowed
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.