Does your county have a written policy that forbids campaign/political signs on county property (e.g. the courthouse lawn)? If so, want to share it with me?
Let me throw out a different thought:
Is there a problem with banning any and all political signs from county property? I am not talking about reasonable restrictions on placement or timing of placement and removal, but a complete and total ban. A ban just seems rather contrary to the First Amendment when we are talking about political speech on the public square. Thoughts and input are appreciate here.
Blanket rules indeed have shortcomings in First Amendment cases. Different types of property will be subject to differing analyses based on what kind of forum they are (traditional public forum, designated public forum, limited forum, not a forum). History is a necessary lens through which to view the issue. For instance, if the courthouse square has historically been used for public speech and debate, an abrupt outright ban will probably face strict scrutiny and likely fall short with respect to the compelling interest and narrow tailoring requisites. A neutral time place and manner restriction (designed to minimize damage and prevent interference with courthouse functions) will be much more likely to pass muster. The existence of other monuments or other forms of speech also plays into the mix, as allowing extant speech but disallowing future speech may raise a question of viewpoint discrmination, even if the ban is uniform in its prospective operation. Other county property may be subject to a much different review regimen, though. If the property is a limited forum, for instance, it may properly be limited to the selected permissible users, so long as the criteria are viewpoint neutral. A non forum is subject to an even more lenient reasonableness standard.
All of those issues are heavily reliant upon the historical and intended uses of the property.
Balancing the First Amendment and the State Constitution...
Free Speech rights for the public, but how does one balance the Constitutional restrictions on lending credit. Or would this truly apply here? If a candidate says it's his right to place his sign on the public property of the courthouse, would someone else come by and look at it as the county is endorsing this individual for office?
It may take a policy (regulating time, manner, and place) for this to work, such as assigning a small area on the courthouse lawn for sign placement. The county could then post a sign next to the area that specifically disclaims any endorsement of any candidate.
This sounds a bit extreme.
Political signs are protected by First Amendment to the United States Constitution which still trumps state laws. With regard to whether these signs on this courthouse property are acceptable. You should answer the following questions:
1. Has this lawn been used every election cycle for political signs?
2. Is this an early voting site or day of voting site?
If the lawn has never been used and courthouse is not an early or day of voting site, you have a chance at an outright ban. But Scott B. points out that if you have other signage on the courthouse lawn expressing free speech a ban might be more of a problem. And if you have routinely allowed the courthouse square to be a free speech zone, bans on signage may be a problem. I suspect attempts have been made to ban signage but allow speeches on trash grounds. Or you may point out that as we do, the concrete is free speech but keep off our lawn. So no signs planted in our lawn. You can carry them on the concrete and give your speeches on the pavement. The challenge is there are no cookie cutter answers.
The posts about time, place, and content are all good. SCOTUS had held that a broad, evenhanded ban of signage on city public property is not unconstitutional, and I think the Court's reasoning would apply to a county ordinance, resolution, or policy. 466 US 789 (1984).
ONE thing I'm thankful for....when our poor (yes, it's still black w/ green tape, leaks and...) courthouse was built, they didn't leave ROOM for a lawn!
The best you can do with a political sign is put it on a car in the parking lot, which is sufficiently removed from the Clerk's office which is the early voting location!
Lisa L. Peterson
Nolan County Attorney
My Comm. Ct. wants to ban all unauthorized signs from county property, primarily the courthouse lawn. Considering valuable past input from this forum, I have drafted the attached proposed ordinance and would greatly appreciate any feedback. Thanks from a Newbie.
SIGN_ORDINANCE_BLANCO_COUNTY.docx (17 Kb, 20 downloads) proposed ordinance
There are only unusual promotion activities are ban in our county and no ban for political signs.
buy political signs
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