Ask Us: What right do landowners have with unwanted campaign signs on their property?
Published 9:42 pm Monday, May 2, 2022
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
SALISBURY — A reader asked what to do when landowners find unwanted campaign posters and signs on their property in light of the primary election for Rowan County. Early voting is underway and the primary is on May 17, but campaign signs have been posted around the county for months.
On the Rowan County Board of Elections webpage, two sections outline the information about the signage laws and who to contact if there is concern about campaign material being on a property. Neither the state board nor county boards regulate signage placements with the exception of polling sites. These locations have 50-foot buffer zones marked with “no campaigning” signs. If a sign is placed in that area it should be removed. Signs cannot be placed in the way of sidewalks or entrances of polling site buildings. There are also curbside buffer zones where disabled and elderly voters can vote from their vehicles; campaign signs can get in the way of this designated area.
Campaign signs are under the category of “temporary freestanding signs” in Salisbury. This means signs that are three square-feet or smaller can be placed on a property by, or with permission of, the property owner or occupant at any time. Signs no larger than six square-feet can be placed on a developed and occupied property starting 60 days before Election Day. If a property is being developed or is up for rent or sale, one freestanding sign can be placed per street footage and can be left until the residence is occupied.
N.C. General Statues says political signs may be placed in the right-of-way of the state highway system during the period beginning on the 30th day before the beginning of one-stop voting period and ending on the 10th day after the primary election day. Any political signs remaining after the 30 days is considered unlawfully placed and abandoned property.
Signs can now be removed by anyone without penalty. Signs need to be three feet from the edge of a pavement, leave clear view for motorists at an intersection, be less than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement and cannot replace or obscure another sign.
The permittee also has to obtain owner permission as a courtesy. China Grove has the same period for signage but signs can be less than 8 square feet. In East Spencer, signs must conform to state law as outlined by NCDOT. Landis allows signs up to 10 square-feet with removal after seven days while Cleveland does not state a limit. In Cleveland, signs must be removed after 60 days.
Political signs are a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment. For individuals who are concerned about signs being placed on their property, the Rowan County Board of Elections says to contact the candidate on the sign or the local N.C. Department of Transportation office at 704-630-3200 about removal.
The list of candidates can be found on www.rowancountync.gov/elections under the “2022 Primary Election Candidates List.”