In addition to running an ethical campaign that plays by the same rules as everyone else and a desire to be ethical, there are other reason to understand and follow the state's outdoor signage rules:
* Following the law will prevent lost time because the candidate, staff, or volunteers took the time to post the signs along the right of way
* Following the law eliminates the time it took to order and assemble the signs
* Depending if the campaign is able to recover the election signs from the Department, following the law eliminates the cost of the signs themselves
When time and money are valuable resources in a competitive campaign, this is a significant setback.
In addition, it's important to consider the political costs. Your opponent is always looking for ways to discredit your candidacy. What a better way to do than to explain to voters that you are violating the state's laws to get an unfair advantage in the campaign.
It doesn't even matter whether the violations were intentional or not. It matters if your opponent is savvy enough to couch it in a way that resonates with voters.
West Virginia Political Sign Laws
The Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox reminds political candidates and campaigns that:
The law bans political signs and stickers from right of way locations especially highway shoulders, traffic signs or devices, trees, stones, fence posts and utility poles," Mattox states. "DOH workers will pull any signs from state right of ways and, for a short time, will store them in county highways offices to be picked up by candidates or their representatives.
In addition to the lost time and money specifc to the signs themselves, there are fines associated with violating the state's regulations. Violating the Wisconsin Department of Transportation lawn sign regulations could cost your campaign thousands of dollars since each sign is a new violation. One afternoon of putting up election signs along the highway will drain your campaign's coffers.
For more information about the state's outdoor advertising laws, contact the Highways' Traffic Engineering Division in Charleston at (304) 558-9341.
Municipal Sign Laws
While West Virginia's state regulations are simple and uniform throughout the state, political campaigns must also navigate through a number of local outdoor sign ordinances. Some local governments don't have relevant ordinances at all while others have extremely complex and restrictive ordinances. Check with the proper municipal authority to determine how or if the local ordinance effects your campaign yard sign placement strategy.
In the meantime, this is a list of the most common restrictions in local lawn sign ordinances:
* Restricting access to the local right of way partially or completely
* Only allowing campaign lawn signs on private property during certain times of the year
* Limiting signs to a certain size or shape
Don't post signs along the state's right of way and your campaign will save itself time, money, and prevent allegations of impropriety from the other candidate.
On the other hand, hold your opponent accountable to the same standard that you and your campaign have set for themselves. If you notice an election sign violation, first document it. Take a picture of the sign close up and another with some context.
Now, you have ammunition to the call the local news reporter, post it on the campaign blog, or incorporate it into other aspects of the campaign.