It’s important for candidates, campaign staff, and supporters to the understand the state’s yard sign laws to avoid lost time involved in:
* Designing the sign
* Posting the sign in unlawful locations
* Recovering signs from the Department of Transportation
In a competitive campaign, time is critical. It is a political campaign’s only nonrenewable resource. There is only so much time till Election Day. The campaign that minimizes distractions and uses their time more wisely than the other candidate is at an advantage.
In addition, there are political consequences to violating Washington State yard sign laws. Your opponent is always looking for ways to attack your candidacy. If your yard signs are found in illegal locations, whether it was intentional or not, you can expect that the other candidate will take you to task for violating the law.
Dale Peterson, candidate for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner in 2010, did this in a TV ad. He criticized his opponent for stealing yard signs “in the dark of night” along with delivering his own campaign message. His populist demeanor and the content of this ad rocketed him from single digits in the polls to nearly 30%.
While he didn’t win the election, Peterson forced a run off and his endorsed candidate beat the one time frontrunner.
Washington Political Sign Laws
The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 468-66, outlines the regulations for temporary political signs on private property visible from state highways. According to the code:
* All signs must be removed from removed from the road ways within ten days of the election
* The maximum allowable lawn sign size is 32 square feet
* Posted signs must meet all local regulations as well
There is a blanket restriction against posting signs within the state right of way. The Department admits that it’s not easy to determine where the right of way ends but offers some tips to understand where they end:
* Utility poles are inside the right of way. This means that putting a sign up before a telephone pole will violate the regulations.
* This same idea works with fences. Do not post signs between the fence and the road.
Private property owners, however, can post signs on their property, including along the highway, so long as they remove them within ten days of the election.
If there is ever a question where the state’s right of way ends or the campaign has another sign related questions, contact the WSDOT Outdoor Advertising Specialist at 360-705-7296. So that the specialist can give the most accurate information, make sure you know the route number along with the closest intersection or milepost number.
Municipal Sign Laws
Washington State’s Department of Transportation has a number of regulations for campaigns to follow. Campaigns with multiple local governments within the district will see the complexity of following yard sign laws grow exponentially.
Be sure to check with the proper local authority to determine if or how local ordinances impact your yard sign distribution strategy. Here are some of the common restrictions:
* When you can place a sign along the local right of way and sometimes on private property
* Limits on the size and shape of an election sign
Political campaigns that follow state and local lawn sign regulations will save time and prevent political attacks from the other candidate.
Understanding these laws is also an opportunity to hold your opponent accountable to the same standard that you are holding your own campaign to. If you see your opponent’s campaign yard sign in an illegal location, document it. Take a picture of the sign and distribute to the press, post it on the campaign blog, and consider using other methods to distribute this information to voters.
Then, let voters decide if they should vote for a candidate to make laws who doesn’t follow them.