With the candidate filing period closed and the political season in full swing, signs urging people to “Vote for Me” are appearing all over Carson City.
They’re on walls, fences, in yards, everywhere a candidate thinks people will see them.
The question candidates need to keep in mind, however, is whether that sign is legal.
Like everything else in this country, there are rules — yes, even for political signs. Those rules say when the signs can be put up, when they must be taken down. They specify, in many cases, where they can and can’t be, how big they can be and how many of them can be put in a given spot.
Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover says Carson City doesn’t say how early candidates can post their signs. State law, however, does.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, signs can’t be posted anywhere near state or federal highway right-of-way any earlier than 60 days before the election. For this year’s primary, that means not before April 11.
The Nevada Department of Transportation doesn’t notify candidates that they are in violation. They just take the sign down and haul it off to their storage yard.
NDOT says they try not to damage the signs so that candidates can reclaim them within 30 days.
NDOT’s website says any political signs “within 660 feet of any NHS (National Highway System) highway must meet federal spacing, size, zoning and lighting requirements.”
In this area, that includes U.S. Highway 395, U.S. Highway 50, I-580, State Route 88, I-80 and the McCarran Boulevard ring road in Reno. The list used to also include Carson Street and Stewart Street but the state has since deeded those routes to the city. But the bypass ends at Fairview Drive so that stretch of road and Carson Street south of Fairview is still part of the highway system.
NDOT also requires a permit for large signs along the highway routes. Signs four-foot by eight-foot or smaller on private property are exempt from that $200 permit.
The other important rules include that signs can’t resemble official traffic signs and can’t block the view of oncoming traffic.
NDOT also says political signs can’t “distract drivers,” but that rule doesn’t exactly explain how that determination would be made.
Under state law, those signs must come down within 30 days after the election for all candidate who don’t survive the June primary and for the remaining candidates after the General Election in November.
There, Carson City’s rules are tougher than the state’s. Carson ordinance requires the signs come down within 10 days after the primary for losing candidates and 10 days after the General for the survivors.
Carson City ordinance excludes political signs from permitting requirements. But the city has rules even for yard signs. Signs are “not to exceed one sign per candidate or issue” and those signs are “not to exceed six square feet of area per sign.” That’s a two-by-three foot sign.
City officials also remind candidates to get permission. There are certain popular lots, corner lots usually, where numerous candidates put up signs every political cycle. And the owners of those lots complain candidates fail to ask permission to do so beforehand. Too often, they say, candidates see a sign on a lot or fence and just assume it’s OK for them to put one there as well.