Letter: Gentlemen’s agreement may be needed

Published 8:21 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2021

We live in a world of signs these days. There was even a popular song years ago about signs. The signs we see most for the past year are political campaign signs and it seems to be most prevalent in Rowan County.

Many people ask, “Isn’t there a time limit on when you can start putting up campaign signs?” There is and there isn’t, depending on who you ask. Over the years, there have been rules, laws, regulations and Supreme Court decisions about campaign signs. They have been adopted by municipalities, counties and the state. Some of them are simple and some of them are complicated.

As recently as July, our N.C. General Assembly revised a sign statute to regulate signs placed in the right-of-way. Remember that the right-of-way fluctuates depending on the type of road. Right-of-way for the purpose of this statute separates it from private land. The permittee must obtain the permission of the land owner that is fronted by the right-of-way in question, subject to six additional rules relating to size and placement. Removal of a properly placed sign is a class three misdemeanor, but I could not find a penalty for improperly placing a sign.

G.S. 136-31 (b) Compliant Political Signs Permitted states: During the period beginning on the 30th day before the beginning date of “one stop” early voting under G.S. 163-227.2 and ending on the 10th day after the day the primary or Election Day persons may place political signs in the right-of-way of the state highway system as provided in this section.

Last November, we held municipal elections across Rowan, which included mayoral, alderman, and city council races, but it did not include the race that you see the most signs advertising. It became confusing for voters and caused some pretty tense situations at the polls around the county.

I suppose the early placement of signs in the beginning was to gain name recognition, but it became seemingly necessary for other candidates to join in. There was also the question of who is supposed to enforce the General Statutes of N.C.

Maybe it is time for a gentlemen’s agreement among those involved in our elections. After all, most of our elections are for folks that either pass the laws or folks that enforce them.

— Joe Fowler