Q: I would like to know what the rules are about campaign signage in and around our area. The primary election is over, and yet I still have to crane my neck to safely see around “Vote for Me” signs everywhere.
Shouldn’t there be a time limit — signs up only so many days before and so many days after an election? Jack D., Puyallup
A: Jack’s right.
There seemingly are campaign signs cluttering every corner from here to Kettle Falls, which is a long way from Pierce County for those of you ignorant of Washington geography.
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Some are placed in what we deem to be dangerous areas. Have you tried turning left onto North 30th Street from Union Avenue in Tacoma recently? Tough to see oncoming traffic through the copse of campaign signs there.
We know: Whine, whine. But what of the rules?
Depends on the jurisdiction.
Here’s what the Tacoma sign code has to say about campaign signs:
“Such political signs shall not be displayed more than seven days after the date of the election for which it was intended. In cases where a general election follows a primary election, those signs for candidates whose names will appear on the ballot in the general election may be displayed during the interim period and up to seven days after the general election.”
The Pierce County code rule is virtually the same, but candidates have 10 days to take down their signs.
Our reading of the laws is that primary winners can keep their signs up through the general election and a little beyond, but that the losers have to take their signs down shortly after the primary is over. Like now.
But “when” isn’t the only operative word in the sign codes. “Where” is also important.
The Tacoma code allows campaign signs on the right of way but asserts that they shall be installed “in such a manner as not to constitute a traffic hazard or impair or impede pedestrian thoroughfares.”
This from the Pierce County Election Guide for Candidates, 2016 edition:
“Political signs shall not exceed 32 square feet in area and shall not obstruct safe visibility of any mobile or pedestrian traffic.”
The state takes a harsher stand, according to state Department of Transportation guidelines for candidates. To wit:
“The erection of temporary political campaigns signs within the right of way of all state highways is prohibited.”
The Transportation Department’s guidelines included the following entreaty to candidates, which, frankly, made us chuckle:
“We sincerely hope that candidates for public office will observe the laws and regulations enacted to limit driver distraction and protect and preserve the roadside beauty of our state. Thank you in advance for your courtesy in this matter.”
Public works departments, not the police or elections officials, usually are the folks tasked with dealing with illegally placed campaign signs.
To report such signs in unincorporated Pierce County, call 253-798-6000.