Signs, Signs, Everywhere There Are Signs

By Jayna Smith

Campaign signs are a common sight leading up to Election Day.  Nearly all candidates utilize this type of advertising, specifically for name recognition.  Regardless of whether or not these types of signs influence how one votes, there is plenty of regulation regarding campaign signs. 

On the list of rules for a campaign sign are where one can be placed and its dimensions.  None can be attached to a utility pole or tree, or be larger than 50 square feet.  Nor can such signs imitate traffic signs.  As well, campaign signs cannot be held or posted on public property within 250 feet of the entrance to the polling facility on Election Day.   

There are also specific details that candidates must follow with regards to the placement and removal of such signs.  According to State Representative Joyce Maker, “Maine law allows signs to be placed in a public right-of-way six weeks prior to an election.”  Signs on private property, she added, can be placed with the land owner’s permission “at any time, for any length of time.” 

Many cities have ordinances in place with regards to political signs which take precedence over state law; Calais does not.  “I believe you will find most political signs are in the right of way of state roads,” interim City Manager Jim Porter said, which North, South, and Main Streets are, he clarified.  “Some are on people’s lawns, but I am sure there are some within the right of way of city streets.  It has not been a particular problem in the past as most candidates follow the rules.” 

Maine state law also requires these signs be removed within one week following the election.   It is clearly written that “a person who takes, defaces or disturbs a lawfully placed sign bearing political messages relating to a general election, primary election or referendum commits a civil violation for which a forfeiture of up to $250 may be adjudged,” unless of course the person removing the sign is the candidate--or part of his or her political committee--or the landowner of where the sign has been placed. 

With regards to signs being damaged or left with only the metal base, which could cause one to trip, Porter explained that if there was a reported danger, the city “would take appropriate action to abate the hazard.”  Otherwise, he said, the city is generally covered by the Maine Tort Claims Act.  This act gives immunity to government entities and employees from personal injury lawsuits seeking recovery of damages. 

Representative Maker said for this most recent campaign, she used about 200 small signs and 9 larger throughout her district which includes Calais, Baileyville, Baring, Charlotte, Indian Township, Pleasant Point, Perry, Robbinston, and part of the unorganized territory in Northern Washington County.   City of Calais Mayor Marianne Moore placed around 20 throughout Calais.  Both said they will have their signs removed this week.