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Ask Us: Readers ask about political sign rules, school bus tracking

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

While rules differ in towns and cities, regulations generally allow small political signs on private property at any time of the year.

With competitive races for all available seats on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on November’s ballot, readers asked about the specifics of campaign sign rules. The Rowan County Board of Elections provided the Post with state and local regulations, which are also available under a link titled “Campaign Signage Info” on rowancountync.gov/elections.

N.C. General Statues say political signs can be displayed in the right-of-way for the state highway system from the 30th day before one-stop voting starts to the 10th day after Election Day. This year, one-stop, or early voting, starts on Oct. 15. That means signs can be placed in the right-of-way starting on Sept. 15, according to guidance from the N.C. State Board of Elections.

If there are sign violations related to state rules, complaints can be directed to the local DOT office at 704-630-3200 or to NCDOT via a toll free hotline 877-368-4968. The Rowan County Board of Elections says it does not take enforcement action related to sign complaints.

Generally, political yard signs can be placed on a person’s private property at any time, said Rowan Elections Director Brenda McCubbins.

“This is a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment,” states guidance from the Rowan County Board of Elections. “However, there are a few municipalities that have ordinances dealing with the timing of sign placement, where a sign can be placed and when it needs to be removed. Any violation of such ordinance should be directed to the political body which passed it, and not a county elections office.”

In Salisbury, election signs are called “temporary freestanding signs” in the city’s land development ordinance. A single sign that’s 3 square feet or smaller can be placed in a person’s yard at any time. But signs 6 square feet or smaller can only be placed 60 days before Election Day — Sept. 4. People are allowed to place as many signs in their yard as they like as long as they meet size requirements according to city staff.

Michael Cotilla, Salisbury’s code services manager, said city staff have treated political signs in the right-of-way as not allowed unless state statute specifically authorized it. And he confirmed Monday that state statute allows it with permission of the adjacent property owner.

He said city staff on Friday removed a large political sign placed at an intersection on Faith Road because it violated rules about sign sizes. Over the weekend, Cotilla said, the sign was rebuilt and placed on private property. It still violates sign size requirements, Cotilla said.

China Grove has the same start date for sign placement as the city of Salisbury, but it allows campaign signs to be 8 square feet.

Some towns, including East Spencer, simply say, “Political signs shall conform to state law” while others, including Cleveland, don’t set a start date for signs of a certain size. Instead, Cleveland’s rules simply say temporary signs cannot be displayed for more than 60 days. Landis appears to allow the largest signs, saying they can be 10 square feet in area and should be removed seven days after the election.

School system can track buses

Another reader asked whether the Rowan-Salisbury School System could provide a service showing parents and students the location of their school bus.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools spokeswoman Rita Foil said the current software used by the system offers the feature, but staff haven’t yet been able to launch it because of incompatibility with other software.

“Where schools can now see their buses and where they are located, parents and students at this time cannot,” Foil said.

She said RSS is interested in and has discussed making the feature available when it’s possible.

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