September 07, 2004
More on Political Sign Restrictions

I fired off an e-mail to Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy blog about my city's political sign ordinance that I had posted about last week.

Here's what he said:

Subject-matter restrictions such as this are *not* content-neutral. They are viewpoint-neutral, but not content-neutral (since they apply to speech related to campaigns but not to other speech), and are therefore unconstitutional. See, e.g., Carey v. Brown (1980).

Here's the case on findlaw.

I have an e-mail in to the city's attorney already.

UPDATE: Today I received the following reply from the city's attorney.

Dear Mr. Lawson: Thank you for your inquiry. While municipalities have broad powers to regulate signage, there are several decisions by Ohio courts striking down as unconstitutional laws specifically targeted at political advertising . Accordingly, the city has not issued citations for violations of Section 1230.06(b) on private property. In my opinion, the city can lawfully prohibit signage in the public right-of-way. Why then has this subsection not been repealed? While unenforceable, I believe that most candidates (particularly in local elections) have used the section as a voluntary guideline for campaign signs. Over the years, my further sense is that residents, without regard to their personal politics, have viewed a community guideline and voluntary compliance with it favorably.

While the idea of leaving unconstitutional (and hence unenforceable) laws on the books does irk me a bit, I guess this is a reasonable stance. Basically, the city is trying to get us to collude to not put signs up too early. All in all not a bad idea.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 11:13 PM  ·  TrackBack (23)

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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