Compared to other states, Rhode Island has somewhat stricter rules and regulations on when, where and under what circumstances you may place your campaign sign. For instance, you may not place a sign at least 25 feet from the nearest edge of right-of-way. Campaign signs aren’t allowed at historical and religious places. If you want to post your sign on a private property, be sure to get the property owner’s consent first.
It’s important to follow RIDOT and Department of State campaign yard signs regulations to avoid the time and cost it takes to deal with violations. Running roughshod over sign laws may also generate negative press and attacks from your political opponents.
Rhode Island Yard Sign Regulations
Rhode Island Outdoor Advertising Act prohibits placing campaign signs that are visible from interstate highways, which means that signs are not allowed at any places where they obstruct or physically interfere with the drivers’ view. For this same reason, your campaign signs should not resemble official traffic signs or signals because they might cause traffic hazards. Also for safety reasons you are not allowed to place your sign upon a tree or any other natural feature that is structurally unsafe.
In Rhode Island there are zones where you can put your sign. Campaign signs must be located in a commercial or industrial area in addition to being 25 feet away from the nearest right-of-way.
Rhode Island is a naturally beautiful state. To maintain its aesthetic appearance, it is forbidden to place campaign signs at places that are considered to be natural or manmade scenic areas. Places of historical significance designated scenic roadways and bicycle paths are strictly forbidden for political signs. If you put your sign in any of these areas, it will be removed by Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Campaign Sign Size
You won’t have any trouble with an average sized sign, but if you are considering large billboards, the maximum area for campaigns signs that are located 150 feet or more from the nearest edge of the right-of-way is 1200 square feet. The maximum allowed length of the sign is 60 feet and maximum height is 25 feet. Don’t forget that these dimensions include border, trim, cutouts and other extensions.
Lawfully placed signs require permits. If you want to obtain a permit, you need to provide a proof of legal control of the real property and sign. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will help you obtain any necessary permits.
Displacing, removing or destroying campaign signs is not allowed. The penalty for this is up to 10 days in jail and a fine of $100 to $500, plus additional expenses and costs.
Local Yard Sign Regulations
Municipal rules on posting campaign signs may differ when it comes to size, shape and location of the sign. I suggest checking local ordinances before you decide to put up a sign. These local ordinances may include some restrictions on how long you may keep a sign or if you need a permit. For example, in the town of Scituate, a zoning inspector must certify any sign before you place it or just decide to change its size, or even move it to another place.
It may seem like there are many rules to be followed before you can place your sign, but it is definitely better to check something twice than to face the consequences afterwards. These consequences include having your sign thrown away and the risk of your opponent taking the advantage of such situation among others. So, to avoid this, do not post your signs at least 25 feet from the nearest edge of right-of-way. Don’t post it on trees or rocks or anywhere where it can fall down a cause a hazard. Speaking of hazards, you are not allowed to place your sign on places where it obstructs the view of the drivers. This can be very serious and dangerous. If you make such mistake, Rhode Island Department of Transportation will have to remove your sign and you will be remembered as someone who doesn’t care about the safety of your voters.
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.