For campaign sign junkies – the rules

CampaignSignsIt’s that time of year again boys and girls, and you know what that means . . .  campaign sign blight. People always want to know what is permitted and is not permitted regarding campaign signs.  So here are are the statutes to keep you (and your favorite candidate) out of trouble.

The campaign signs that draw the most ire from people are those that are placed in public right-of-ways along roadways (see photo). Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-1019 (C) is state preemption of local sign code ordinances for campaign signs:

C. Notwithstanding any other statute, ordinance or regulation, a city, town or county of this state shall not remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign if the following conditions are met:

1. The sign is placed in a public right-of-way that is owned or controlled by that jurisdiction.

2. The sign supports or opposes a candidate for public office or it supports or opposes a ballot measure.

3. The sign is not placed in a location that is hazardous to public safety, obstructs clear vision in the area or interferes with the requirements of the Americans with disabilities act (42 United States Code sections 12101 through 12213 and 47 United States Code sections 225 and 611).

4. The sign has a maximum area of sixteen square feet, if the sign is located in an area zoned for residential use, or a maximum area of thirty-two square feet if the sign is located in any other area.

5. The sign contains the name and telephone number or website address of the candidate or campaign committee contact person.

This last requirement does not appear to be enforced, at least in Tucson and Pima County. We have had some local yokels for the past several election cycles who make attack ad signs — some handmade — that litter Tucson and Pima County roadways which do not contain any identifying contact information, yet the Tucson and Pima County Transportation Departments do not remove these illegal signs. Wassup?

You should never remove campaign signs, no matter how pissed off you are.* Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-1019 (A) “It is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign of any candidate for public office or knowingly remove, alter or deface any political mailers, handouts, flyers or other printed materials of a candidate that are delivered by hand to a residence for the period commencing forty-five days before a primary election and ending seven days after the general election.”

Campaign signs in public right-of-ways can only go up 60 days before an election — and no, the legislative intent behind this provision does not mean when the early mail-in ballots are mailed (nice try). Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-1019 (H) provides: “Subsection C applies only during the period commencing sixty days before a primary election and ending fifteen days after the general election, except that for a sign for a candidate in a primary election who does not advance to the general election, the period ends fifteen days after the primary election.

This means that campaign signs in public right-of-ways cannot go up until June 27, 2014.  Some Tea-Publican candidates, ahem, Ethan Orr and Adam Kwasman, have already got themselves into trouble for jumping the gun (not that they care). Some political candidates jump the gun putting out campaign signs too early. The media villagers love to focus on small-bore nonsense like this, so candidates, just don’t do it.

The question I get most frequently from people about campaign signs are about their homeowners association, where there is always some sign code Nazi from the HOA board who wants to harass them about campaign signs. Arizona Revised Statutes § 33-1808 (C) is state preemption of HOA sign code ordinances for campaign signs:

C. Notwithstanding any provision in the community documents, an association shall not prohibit the indoor or outdoor display of a political sign by an association member on that member’s property, except that an association may prohibit the display of political signs earlier than seventy-one days before the day of an election and later than three days after an election day. An association may regulate the size and number of political signs that may be placed on a member’s property if the association’s regulation is no more restrictive than any applicable city, town or county ordinance that regulates the size and number of political signs on residential property. If the city, town or county in which the property is located does not regulate the size and number of political signs on residential property, the association shall not limit the number of political signs, except that the maximum aggregate total dimensions of all political signs on a member’s property shall not exceed nine square feet. For the purposes of this subsection, “political sign” means a sign that attempts to influence the outcome of an election, including supporting or opposing the recall of a public officer or supporting or opposing the circulation of a petition for a ballot measure, question or proposition or the recall of a public officer.

Doesn’t this read like it was written by an HOA board and its attorney? The 71 day prohibition, for those who are counting, is June 16, 2014 (check with your HOA for its specific regulations).

If you own private residential property that is not part of a homeowners association, you can put up your campaign yard signs up now.

* UPDATE:  Remember this from 2008? Huppenthal charged with theft, blames Democrats:

State Sen. John Huppenthal R-Chandler has been charged with criminal misdemeanors for cutting down an opposition campaign sign on Election Day.

He’s accused of theft and altering or destroying a political sign. A conviction could send him to jail for up to six months.

The charges stem from a confrontation Huppenthal had with Ruth Levin, a 78-year-old Democratic activist who told reporters and police that the senator cut down the sign then struggled with her over it before driving off in a Lexus SUV. Levin reported the incident to Chandler police.

Emily DeRose, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party, said it is uncertain whether Huppenthal had permission, but the real issue is his behavior. “Our public officials should be held to a high standard of ethical conduct. People who think it’s okay to steal signs from little old ladies should account for that kind of behavior,” she said.

One response to “For campaign sign junkies – the rules

  1. Frances Perkins

    The legislature preempted Cities from enforcing political signs IN THE RIGHT OF WAY. That was insane enough. This is not private property. It is public street right if way. There is plenty of opportunity to place them on PRIVATE property. Of course there is a loophole for Cities to use, if they have the guts. The call it the Scottsdale resort corridor exception. Just declare that the street has tourism or historic value to the community, and hack signs are banned in those street rights of way. A mass definition like that is valuable, but just as stupid as those poor legislators not having a place to litter the landscape. The ultimate point is the door should NEVER had been opened for public rights of way. What’s next for those poor politicians, public parks and ballfields?