Preventing political garbage

Published 2:31 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The municipal elections are over, with predictably low turnout. The campaign yard signs are slowly, but surely, disappearing across the county. North Carolina state law says those signs must be retrieved by the 10th day after a primary or election, in an effort to make sure they don’t just become roadside trash.

But not all the signs are disappearing. In fact, before the election last week, signs have been popping up in yards all over the county. These campaign signs are for elections that won’t take place until November 2018.

The state statute says: No sign shall be permitted in the right-of-way of a fully controlled access highway; no sign shall be closer than 3 feet from the edge of the pavement of the road; no sign shall obscure motorist visibility at an intersection; no sign shall be higher than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement of the road; no sign shall be larger than 864 square inches; no sign shall obscure or replace another sign. It also says it is “a Class 3 misdemeanor for a person to steal, deface, vandalize or unlawfully remove a political sign that is lawfully placed under this section.”

Apparently, there is no restriction on when political signs can go up on private property. On state right-of-ways, yes, there are restrictions: 30 days before an election or primary. But just because there is no restriction doesn’t mean candidates for those far-off races should put their signs up just yet.

Between now and next November, there’s plenty of opportunity for nor’easters. There’s at least a chance for snow, maybe on multiple locations. Come spring, eastern North Carolina has seen its share of tornadoes. Then summertime, well, summertime into fall brings every opportunity for a hurricane.

Political signs are unlikely to stand up to extreme weather, and therefore, at some point over the next year, could very likely become just another piece of roadside garbage.

The people running for office obviously care about this county; otherwise, they wouldn’t be running for office at all. They’ll hopefully be monitoring where their signs are and take action to protect them when those stiff winds are blowing in March. Best case scenario, however, is the county takes a look at creating its own ordinance, one that disallows yard signs for active campaigns until the filing period for candidates running for those offices begins. That would be in February. February still a long way away.