Please keep in mind that removing signage without the authorization of the sign owner is illegal. This is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code Section 488.
The Department of Transportation is required by state law to remove unapproved temporary political signs and charge the responsible party for their removal. Unapproved temporary political signs include those that are attached to a permanent structure such as a house or tree, those that are in the rights-of-way (roadsides), and those located on public property without the permission of the city or county where they are posted.
Political signs play an important role in our electoral process. They provide information to voters about candidates and issues before they vote. Political signs also help get our message out to residents that we care about their concerns. Finally, signs often act as a catalyst for conversation between citizens and their neighbors. We want people to have open dialogue about politics and policy issues, so signs are a useful tool for promoting understanding.
Signs that communicate a political campaign or message support that campaign or organization will be removed after the election or when they cease to exist respectively. This is not only the case in cities with sign ordinances but also in counties and states with no formal signage regulations. For example, in Virginia all political signs must be taken down at the end of the election year. Failure to do so results in a fine.
Politicians often complain about political signs littering our streets and neighborhoods.
(a) A person commits an infraction or a misdemeanor if he or she steals, holds, damages, reuses, or moves any political sign or signs without the owner's consent and with the aim to prohibit, significantly modify, or substantially conceal the sign's communication. Theft of such signs is a criminal offense regardless of intent.
(b) An infraction is a criminal offense unless otherwise provided by law. Misdemeanors are punishable by a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both. Infractions are less serious than misdemeanors and may not be punishable by incarceration. However, some violations can result in fines up to $10,000 or imprisonment for more than six months. Other factors that may affect the penalty include the number of offenses and prior criminal record. The penalties for theft of political signs are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on several factors including but not limited to the type of sign stolen, its value, and the presence of aggravating circumstances.
First and foremost, while several states have passed laws mandating or otherwise enabling property owners to have political signs on or near their land, Illinois does not currently have such a statute. Owners of private property can decide what role they want to play in the political process, but they cannot legally prevent individuals from expressing their views through signs.
In addition, under the First Amendment, people are free to express themselves by putting up signs advertising their opinions about politics or any other topic that may be relevant to society. This right extends to commercial as well as non-commercial speech. So even if Hoa had such a policy, this would not constitute a valid reason for removing signs posted by protesters.
Finally, it should be noted that most cities do not remove all signs during election years because this could have a negative impact on the candidate's campaign. Rather, sign ordinances generally target certain types of signs based on how much interference, if any, they believe they cause. For example, signs that lie on the ground without upright supports are difficult or impossible to maintain, so they usually are removed after one use. Signs that support only one side of an issue may also be taken down after one use in order to avoid conflict. Finally, signs that block traffic lanes or other public areas can lead to arrests for criminal trespass.
According to Virginia's former Attorney General Richard Cullen, who issued an opinion on September 30, 2014, "the restriction established by SS 15.2-109 on a locality's ability to prohibit the display of political campaign signs on private land does not extend to private homeowners' associations." In other words, personal property rights do apply to HOAs.
Virginia law provides that a HOA can regulate certain aspects of its community, including landscaping and exterior building modifications, but it cannot interfere with a homeowner's right to express his or her political views through signage attached to their own property. The only way for Hoppers to prevent their names from being placed in nomination at the next election is to vote them out of office.
In addition to violating home owners' freedom of speech, regulations designed to control sign content are also unconstitutional because they violate citizens' freedom of association. By restricting what may be said through signs, Hoppers are forced to join together in order to communicate their messages.
House Bill 2 prohibits local governments from regulating in any way the content of political signs. This includes restrictions on size, format, or location of signs. It also includes prohibitions on any signs that contain criminal penalties for violations. This means that no city or county in Virginia can register political candidates, set up election districts, or require identification from people voting in an election while standing in a public place.
An organization cannot outright prohibit political signs, but the restriction applies only within a particular window around election time, during which the association has limited control over the "time, place, and manner" of the displays.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it is aware of only one other instance in which this issue was brought to court -- and that was more than 20 years ago when a federal judge ruled in favor of two political groups that had been sued by an association whose members wanted to put up signs supporting their candidates for office. The ACLU said it is not sure what action if any was taken on appeal.
Judge Michael Watson at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio concluded in October 1992 that the association did not have the right to restrict its members from putting up political signs since this would violate their First Amendment rights. He also noted that the association had ample alternative means available to it through which its members could voice their support for or opposition to candidates running for office. These include phone banks, letter-writing campaigns, and even online forums, he said.
Watson's ruling was appealed by the association but later settled out of court. No further details about the settlement were made public at the time, but we know that it included an agreement by both parties to refrain from bringing further actions related to political signs in Ohio courts.