The Stakes Are High
With mere weeks left before the city, state and national elections are finalized, campaigning is at an all-time high. The presidential debates have commenced, your favorite television stations are overwhelmed with political advertisements, and the calls to your cell phone from political parties are nonstop. And while technology has given us opportunities to reach more people faster, the old school political yard sign tactic is still alive and well.
Though signage is a great way to get the name of a candidate out there, you can’t always just stake a sign in the ground and call it good. There are different rules in each state governing political sign placement, and some are pretty surprising! We’ve rounded up the pickiest political yard sign rules you should know about.
I bet you never thought an incorrect disclaimer would land you in the slammer! In Indiana, political yard signs, leaflets, posters, or direct mail pieces sent to over 100 people without the correct disclaimer is considered a Class A misdemeanor. If you don’t follow the rule, you could face up to a $5,000 fine or a year in jail...or both!
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If you plan to spend more than $100 on an individual campaign sign or advertisement, be ready to attach some additional information. The state law requires you to provide your name, phone number, web page URL, and the candidate or organization that approved the message on the sign. Otherwise, prepare to face a penalty.
Font size isn’t just a rule your teachers harped on with your research papers in school. In North Carolina, it’s required that the name of the candidate or organization that paid for the message is printed in a 12-point font size or larger. It also must be equal to or more than 5 percent of the communication. Picky!
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The Keystone State has some very specific rules when it comes to staking your political signs, especially surrounding advertising disclaimers. For instance, "If a corporation or unincorporated association makes an independent expenditure for a general public political advertisement that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot question, the advertisement must contain a disclaimer that clearly states who financed the expenditure for the communication.”
If you plan to campaign in Louisiana, you better have an extra-long tape measure! The state prohibits electioneering, including political signs, within a whopping 600 foot radius of any polling place. To put this number into perspective, Rhode Island requires just 50 feet, while many other states set the bar at 100 feet.
You may not need to stake your sign as far away from any polling place as you do in Louisiana, but in West Virginia, if you don’t abide by the 100-foot rule, you can expect a fine of up to $1,000, a year in jail, or both.
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The Sunshine State isn’t messing around when it comes to its political yard sign rules. The state law prohibits signs placed “within 660 feet of the edge of the right-of-way of any state or federal highway or within 100 feet of a church, school, cemetery, public park, reservation, playground, or state/national forest.” Furthermore, you can’t attach signs to trees or post signs that are in poor condition.
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If you’re in Colorado, be sure to keep your paws off political campaign signs, as the state will prosecute anyone who tampers with them. This includes damaging, altering, or removing campaign signs, which is considered a misdemeanor and could cost you up to $750.
If you’re campaigning in Idaho, be sure to keep your signs away from the state highway rights-of-way, areas that are “visible from interstate or primary highways”, or drainage ditches. You’ll also want to ensure your signs don’t look like danger signs or directional signs. And if you place a sign on public or private property without permission, you could face misdemeanor charges.
The Granite State has some specific rules when it comes to placement of political yard signs. Be sure not to affix your signs to utility poles, or in a way that blocks people’s view of traffic. And if you plan to remove or deface political signs and other advertising, be prepared for a fine of up to $1,000 and other criminal penalties.
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