With one-stop early voting beginning April 24, the short season in which hundreds of multicolored signs are displayed detailing the names and desired seats of dozens of candidates along the roadways is fast-approaching.
The rules and regulations governing the size and placement of those signs varies from the city to the county, as well as from municipality to municipality.
Rowan County does not have an official ordinance policy for political signs.
“We do not police political signs for the municipalities. If a question is asked, we look it up in the sign packet just as the candidates would or defer to the local municipality for clarification,” said Laura Russell, elections specialist with the county’s board of elections.
While signs already may have started sprouting on private properties in the county, the torrent of candidates’ campaign signs will be unleashed 30 days prior to the start of early voting.
In the city, the maximum area of a sign is six square feet, according to the ordinances.
No signs may be placed along city streets, public property, any city-maintained right of way or attached to things like poles, trees, fences, rocks or other signs.
Signs must be removed within ten days after the primary election on May 6.
Signs in the city may only be placed on private property.
While the city does not specifically define the height above the road or distance to the edge of a road a sign can be placed at, state law dictates a sign can only stand 42 inches above the road and sit no less than three feet away from the road.
The property owners will be fined as opposed to the candidates, and regardless of whether the sign is in the right of way or on the property – city ordinances state it is the property owner’s responsibility to comply with the code.
After the property owners receive a written notice of violation, fines can range from $50 to $250 per day per sign if uncorrected.
In the county, signs may not be placed along DOT-maintained right of ways outside the limits of a municipality until 30 days before the election and 10 days after.
In the county, the permission of the property owner must be obtained prior to putting a sign along the right of way.
No signs may be placed within the right of way of a fully controlled access highway.
A person looking to steal, deface, vandalize or remove a sign against the law will be penalized with a Class 3 misdemeanor, according to state law.
While candidates may only promote themselves through school publications such as newspapers or athletic programs, no advertisements can be made that support political causes and no signs may be placed on school grounds.
Codes also considerably differ between municipalities.
According to a packet board of elections officials said they gave out to each candidate, political signs in Cleveland are seen as temporary signs that may not be placed more than 60 days before the election.
Those signs in Cleveland should be removed “as soon as possible” following the election.
In East Spencer, signs may not be placed along the right of way and must be removed within 30 days of the election.
In the town limits of Faith, political signs are prohibited.
Political signs posted in Granite Quarry cannot be placed along a right of way and must be removed within 48 hours after the election.
Kannapolis has different rules, as a political sign may not be placed closer than ten feet away from the pavement as opposed to three feet.
According to the packet detailing the codes of the county’s municipalities, Kannapolis allows signs to be set up 45 days prior to the election.
Landis code shows no signs may be posted anywhere, and Rockwell’s code dictates signs cannot exceed 32 square feet and must be removed within a week following the election.
A local N.C. Department of Transportation official who wished to remain anonymous because he didn’t know his organization’s media policy said DOT will work with candidates and give them an opportunity to pick up the signs that are not compliant with the law.
“One of the main concerns for us is the safety of the traveling public,” the DOT employee said. “If drivers cannot see other traffic on the road because of a big sign, we will try and get it removed.”
City officials could not be reached for comment by presstime regarding the sign ordinances.
For more information on the placement of political signs, contact Rowan County Board of Elections at 633-6231 or the city’s code enforcement division at 216-7559.
For the rules and regulations governing political signs in each municipality, contact the respective municipality.
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