Sign, Sign, everywhere a political sign. Except in right of ways...

What's the law on campaign signs? You're guess is as good as mine.

From today's Argus Leader:

Politicians who put up campaign signs along Minnehaha County roads will be reminded to remove them within five days after the Nov. 7 election.

However, that is the only regulation that Minnehaha County has in place governing such signs.

"We do not regulate the location or size of political signs," planning director Scott Anderson told the Minnehaha County Commissioners Tuesday.

"The only thing we regulate is that they need to be removed within five days."
Read it all here.

Compare that to the ordinance on campaign within city limits of Pierre, considered the most restrictive in the state:
With the exception of bumper stickers placed on licensed motor vehicles, no person shall place or display any political candidate or election issue signs on public or private property prior to two weeks before any election and all such signs shall be removed the day following the election. Signs may not be placed near street, alley, or driveway corners where they would interfere with vehicle or pedestrian visibility.

1. Political candidate signs up to 32 square feet in size, and located in a use zone that allows on-site advertising, may be displayed at the principal campaign headquarters or a lawful political candidate at any time.

2. Political candidate or election issue signs up to 32 square feet in size, when located on their own rented or leased space of a vacant lot not in residential zoning, but within a use zone allowing on-site advertising, may be displayed two weeks prior to an election, but must be removed the day following the election.

3. With permission of the property owner, or the adjacent property owner, political candidate or election issue signs may be placed on private property or in the boulevard area of the street right-of-way adjacent to private property, two weeks before any election, providing the signs do not exceed 432 square inches in area and are removed the day following the election.

4. With the permission of the adjacent property owner(s), political or election issue signs not exceeding 32 square feet in size and placed in a vehicle or on a trailer, may park on public streets and in public parking lots, but not in residential zoning, two weeks before any election provided all parking regulations are met and the signs are removed the day following the election.
Every county and municipality has their own quirks and requirements, so if you're dsplaying signs within their boundaries, make sure you know the law. Some take a rather laissez faire approach, such as Minnehaha County. Others are more draconian, like the city of Pierre. As mentioned, among politicos, they're considered the most draconian in the state (probably because some people don't have anything better to do than to think this crap up).

Inevitably, there's some candidate who get's their signs for a statewide audience and places those same signs in Pierre. Tim Johnson did it a few years ago. And before that two week window was up, part of the top or bottom was lopped off to meet the square inch requirement.

Actually, I'm suprised that no one in South Dakota ever challenges political sign ordinances in court. Because I'd make the point that most cities make more allowances for business or contractor signs than they do political signs. And that's a big no-no according to the United States Supreme Court. Because in essence, they are more permissive for commerical speech than they are political speech. And political speech is supposed to be the least restrictive of all.

I wrote to the Pierre city commissioners on this once in great detail, with citations and everything. I had one, maybe two write me back thanking me for my information. And really, they didn't do anything differently.

(I'm killing myself trying to find the citation before I get to work this AM, but) the bottom line is that when the government favors commercial speech over non-commercial, it's unconstitutional. So, if anyone cares to "fight the power" and make a stand for free speech this election, let me know, so I can cover it.

Regardless, unless you're willing to be the candidate to take it to court, call the county manager, or the city finance office and find out what the regulations are before you get your signs printed. It may save you some headache in the long run.


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