Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 11, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, October 11, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, October 11, 2018
In the season of political signs it helps to know the laws
by Anne Berleant
They appear to be at nearly every intersection and traffic triangle: political campaign signs. And, with the state law governing temporary signs in public rights-of-way amended, as of August 1, temporary signs are now allowed to remain planted for 12 weeks per year, instead of six. This doubles the political sign season, even if the change was not aimed specifically at campaign signs.
But the rules for planting those signs remain basically the same:
Signs must include the name of the person who planted the sign, and the date on which it was planted.
Individual signs bearing substantially the same message must be placed at least 30 feet from one another.
The Maine interstate system, Maine Turnpike Authority system, and all connecting interchanges and ramps are off-limits to temporary signs.
Signs may not be placed where they will limit the sight line of anyone trying to pull out of a side road or driveway.
Maine Department of Transportation employees may remove signs that are unlawfully placed.
On private property, political signs may be placed, with the permission of the landowner, six weeks before an election or referendum vote, and must be removed one week after.
But what about signs that are unlawfully removed?
One Deer Isle woman noted that sets of signs she planted were removed several days later, between Sunday, September 23, and Monday, September 24. In some but not all of the locations, the opposing party candidate signs were also removed.
“All of my signs were taken down on the island,” Nancy Wilson said. “They were not taken down in Sedgwick. Some of the [opposing candidate] signs were taken down. All of them reappeared. None of mine reappeared.”
Who removed those signs and why are unknown. Wilson was not aware of the law requiring her name and date of placement be written on the signs, but considers it unlikely they were removed for improper planting on a Sunday night. “By 8 a.m. on Monday morning, they were gone,” she said.
The civil penalty for unlawfully removing a sign is $250—but proving a certain individual or individuals did so may be difficult.
In two areas where Wilson placed signs—on the Quaco Road triangle in Deer Isle and near the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center in Little Deer Isle—her signs and those from the opposing party were removed. On Quaco Road, they were replanted a bit further down, and at the Welcome Center, the removed signs were propped up against the building. But the remaining signs, she said, never reappeared.