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. But no signs are allowed at historical and religious places. These are just a couple of the rules that you must keep in mind during the campaign.
There are political consequences for playing fast and loose with campaign sign rules. You’d be subject to criticism from the local media and your political opponent for one.
Rhode Island Yard Sign Regulations
Rhode Island sign ordinances commonly do not allow off-site or off premises sign. Rhode Island Outdoor Advertising Act prohibits placing campaign signs that are visible from interstate highways, so not to obstruct or physically interfere with a drivers’ view. For the 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 zoned commercial or industrial area. More important, your signs must stay 25 feet away from the nearest right-of-way.
When planning a campaign in Rhode Island, it is forbidden to place campaign signs at natural of manmade scenic places. Places of historical significance, designated scenic roadways and bicycle paths are also off limits for political signs. If you make a mistake and put your sign here, it will be removed by Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Political Sign Size Limit
The maximum area for campaigns signs that are located 150 feet or more from the nearest edge of the right-of-way is 1,200 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 the border, trim, cutouts and other extensions.
Rhode Island Sign Permits
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. Department of Transportation takes care of the process to obtain the permit.
Displacing, removing, injuring or destroying campaign signs is not allowed. 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. It is highly recommended to check 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 town of Scituate, the zoning inspector must certify any sign before you place it or just decide to change its size, or even move it to another place. And in some villages you need to submit the signs to the village overlay district review committee before you can place your sign.
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 political and legal consequences afterwards. These consequences are of course your sign being taken away and the risk of your opponent taking the advantage of such situation. 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 the 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.