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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: No statewide law governing campaign sign removal

May 5, 2019

Some candidates are good about making sure that all of their campaign signs are collected after an election.

But for others, the signs often stand as monuments to failed campaigns or successful runs.

There are no statewide laws governing when signs can be erected or when they must be taken down. Each municipality can create its own ordinance.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has rules, however, prohibiting the placement of signs in rights of way.

“We are not an enforcement agency, but if signage is causing a sight distance or visibility issue, we will remove it,” PennDOT press officer Tara Callahan-Henry said. “We do not have the manpower to go out and remove all signs from our right of way.”

Callahan-Henry said that signs can cause problems for maintenance such as mowing.

“If they are impeding a work activity, they again will be removed and can be claimed at our offices,” she said.

“But more of an issue is they then become litter, which this is a time of year when we are stressing to people to go out and help beautify our state.”

Somerset County Elections Director Tina Pritts said that there are no election rules governing when a candidate can put up signs and when they have to take them down.

“As far as placing them — that is up to the landowner,” she said. “There is nothing in the election code other than they have to have a disclaimer on them.”

Pritts said she occasionally receives a call complaining about left-behind signs and forwards that information to the candidate or party chair.

“Most of the candidates are pretty good about removing their signs right away,” she said.

Somerset Borough police Chief Randy Cox said the borough does not have any ordinances regarding signs.

“Our officers generally take down signs upon receipt of a complaint, especially from private property owners where signs are placed and they didn’t have permission,” he said.

He said there are certain places, such as the veterans memorial at the intersection of South Franklin Avenue and Patriot Street, or places where signs can obstruct a motorist’s view, where they will take them down as well.

“If (the signs) are on public property, they could be considered abandoned property unless permission was sought by (the candidate) and received,” he said.

Cox said that signs in the borough are cleaned up quickly, unlike signs in other places.

“Whether the candidate, campaign workers or just citizens, they have always been pretty diligent about removing them in the borough,” he said.