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Answer Man: Campaign signs have expiration dates

January 6, 2019
Nearly two months after the general election, campaign signs for Doug Wardlow, who ran a failed campaign for Minnesota attorney general, and Jim Hagedorn, who was successful in his congressional bid, remain in place Friday at the intersection of 65th Street Northwest and Bandel Road.

Dear Answer Man, What are the rules for the removal of campaign signs post-election? The Republican party has two very large signs for GOP candidates still posted at the intersection of 65th Street Northwest and Bandel Road. — Annoyed

Minnesota state statute governs the placement of campaign signs during state and federal election years, providing guidelines from 46 days before the primary election until 10 days after the general election.

It ensures political supporters can post a sign, or multiple signs, of any size during a campaign. There are some limits on content and where a sign can be placed, but in general state statute trumps potential local sign limits.

Ten days after a general election, however, local ordinances go back into effect. As with many government rules, the local ordinances regarding sign placements can be a bit vague, especially when it comes to noncommercial signs.

I asked one of my minions to make a call to City Hall for a ruling, and it appears the 10-day limit is in effect in Rochester, meaning campaign signs should have been down in November unless proper licenses and permissions are in place.

Generally, campaign volunteers, or candidates themselves, will remove campaign signs following an election, win or lose.

At least one Rochester City Council candidate was out the night of the Aug. 14 primary election taking down signs before the final results were in.

Ward 1 candidate Paul Myhrom told one of my co-workers that he did so to ensure his supporters weren’t burdened by the need to mow around them or move them for other reasons. If he had won a spot in the general election, he said he planned to put them up shortly before voting started.

That seems like the considerate thing to do.

As for signs that remain up, the city’s response to them is in the category of tall grass and snow-covered sidewalks. Staff can only respond if they are told a violation exists.

However, like those snow-covered sidewalks, it might be worth a call to the owner with a reminder of city policies and community expectations. After all, a bit of courtesy can go a long way, especially on topics that easily fuel frustration, such as elections and free speech.

In its report on sign ordinances and the First Amendment, the Minnesota League of Cities suggests taking a cautious approach.

“Even if not election season, local sign ordinances should not have the effect of prohibiting opinion speech,” it states.

Regardless of the politics behind the sign, that is a stance I can get behind.

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