BOISE, Idaho — In recent months and ahead of the May primary election, campaign signs have appeared all over Idaho. On private property they are one thing, but what about signs placed in public areas, like the side of the road or the corner of an intersection, when will those comes down?
Campaign sign questions, specifically about when they need to come down, are popular one week from election night.
“News channels get questions about them. Local municipalities get questions about signs a the bottom line with signs is simply that it is really the candidate's responsibility to understand the laws that regulate signs,” Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State, Chad Houck said.
Houck said for the most part, election signs and rules around them don’t really fall under their banner.
“Those laws don't fall within campaign finance laws and that's one of the spaces, the jurisdictions of the secretary of state's office," Houck said. "So, the laws that we look at for signs is that they're clearly disclosing who's making the investment and purchasing those signs. That's where you see that 'paid for by the name of the campaign' or whoever's purchasing those signs. Whatever those signs might say."
So, who is watching for signs potentially in the way or signs that have been destroyed that are essentially just trash off the side of the road?
“That's all more within the realms, because we mostly see them on roadways, that's actually the department of transportation, the highway department, the county highway districts, that have that jurisdiction and that actually falls within Idaho code,” Houck said.
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) sent a letter to candidates back in April to remind them of some state codes that deal with putting up signs. The codes include topics such as not putting a sign on private property without permission or putting up signs that mimic a traffic sign. Signs also must stay out of the right of way of traffic.
ITD shared this tip on placing signs in an approved area: “If there’s a fence running along the highway, you probably shouldn’t place signs anywhere between the fence and highway. If you don’t see a fence, but see power poles along the highway, those are generally placed just inside the ROW. So, you can use power poles as a general marker and not post signs between them and the highway.”
ITD said a great thing candidates can do is collect signs after the polls close. The department said they prefer not sending out crews to collect signs, but if they remain up, ITD will grab them and hold them for 10 days after an election for campaigns to collect them.
Meanwhile, agencies like the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) ask that signs be placed 40 feet back from an intersection, so drivers don’t have their vision obstructed. ACHD also asks that signs be taken down 48 hours after the election.
So, who is supposed to take the signs down?
“As far as bringing them down, I think that's more of a social pressure. As a political candidate, you don't want to have your name out there, especially if you weren't successful in a primary," Houck said. "You don't want to see your name, be the thing that's out littering streets and eventually blowing across the highways of our state."
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