Please don’t disturb the political yard signs, and know where to place them

Folks, help spread the word to not tamper with or steal the campaign signs. [Tyler Anderson/The Graphic-Advocate]
Tyler Anderson
Editor, The Graphic-Advocate

For a period of time during the calendar year, Americans set out yard signs displaying their support for their municipal, county or federal level candidate of choice. These candidates who venture into the representative process can range from city councils to the highest office in the land – the President of the United States.

As election season begins to crescendo toward Nov. 2, there are a couple of major things to consider when visibly supporting your fellow citizens in their quest for public office.

First and foremost, leave the yard signs alone.

Regardless if you look upon a candidate favorably or critically, campaign signs are a person’s expression of free speech. Not only does the First Amendment protect that opinion, but also it is like being allowed to share your thoughts on someone or something – regardless if it’s positive or negative.

To tamper with these materials can result in a fifth-degree misdemeanor. In Iowa, the penalties of vandalism are fines ranging from $105 to $855, or 30 days of jail time.

Calhoun County Attorney Tina Meth Farrington concurred that the yard signs must be left be.

If you see anyone tampering with campaign signs or taking them without permission from the property owner, do not hesitate to call your local or county authorities.

At the end of the day, we must agree to disagree, and agree to save those disagreements for the voting booth.

To quote George W. Pinkering, a former Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, “A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honorable, generous, tolerant and respectful.”

Simply put, let’s be halfway decent to each other and let’s give everyone a fair shot heading into Election Day. It saves a lot of headaches for candidates, voters and those who serve and protect.

Second, know where it’s best to place those campaign signs.

The Code of Iowa states that campaign signs may be set down – with permission – on private property, on agricultural land owned by individuals or by a family farm operation. They can also be placed on a property leased for residential purposes (apartments, condos, college housing facilities), vacant lots and property owned (if they are not prohibited contributors), and property leased by a candidate, committee or an organization (for example, a campaign headquarters or campaign office).

However, signs are not allowed to be posted on any land owned by the state of Iowa or any city, county, or other local entity or political subdivision. Notable examples of this are a county courthouse, a city hall, public library or a community center.

When it comes to absentee voting, there should be no signs within 300 feet of a voting site or satellite absentee voting station, during the times when ballots are available.

Signs are also prohibited on any public rights-of-way. A public rights-of-way, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation, includes “the roadway surface, the concrete or grassy median, intersections, entrance and exit ramps, and a strip of land, usually bordering either side of the road, which is reserved for shoulders, drainage ditches, sidewalks, traffic signs/signals, fencing, electrical traffic signal control boxes, utility lines and future road expansion.”

Should any sign pose a public hazard, it will be removed at the owner’s expense. A campaign will be given a 48-hour notice to remove the signs, where the signs would be taken away and costs billed to the campaign.

If you’re not too sure about the public rights-of-way, you can contact the agency responsible for the roadway. The contacts for inquiry can be the Iowa DOT, your county engineer (the assistant to the engineer also counts) or your local public works director.

As we go full steam ahead into this latest election cycle, please remember to treat others how you want to be treated, leave those campaign signs be if they’re not yours, and if you’re unsure about where to show your support, feel free to ask questions.


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