IF IT’S LEGIBLE, IT’S ILLEGAL, STATE LAW SAYS
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities sent a reminder out via email today telling candidates that campaign signs in the public rights-of-way are unlawful. In other words, those thousands of dollars invested by campaigns in signage cannot be used anywhere where it’s visible from a highway.
That would make thousands of signs and even signs on trucks illegal, if the state tried to enforce its laws and regulations.
DOT&PF might want to send a note to the boss, Gov. Bill Walker, who has had a sign on State park property for weeks, clear violation of statutes prohibiting personal use of state property.
The problem for campaigns is that nearly all roads in the state are considered state roads in Alaska, even those that are well-traveled streets and boulevards in urban centers. There are also thousands of real estate signs across the state that would fall into the “illegal” category.
Whether the state could actually enforce such a prohibition on political speech is yet to be tested.
Here are the rules that the state rights-of-way chief wants everyone to know:
- Signs placed within the state’s public rights-of-way are prohibited. This applies to vehicles parked in rights-of-way that are used to display political advertisements. Such signs create safety hazards by obstructing views, distracting drivers, and creating obstacles in collisions. These signs may be removed by DOT&PF crews without notification.
- Signs placed along the state’s public rights-of-way are also prohibited. Alaska laws apply to signs on public or commercial property either within 660 feet of state’s public right-of-way or beyond 660 feet and legible from the main traveled way. These signs may be removed by the state at the expense of the property owner.
- In accordance with the law, the owner of the property or the person placing or maintaining the unauthorized sign is subject to removal expenses of at least $50 per sign, fines of at least $50 and as much as $5,000 if convicted of a misdemeanor, and associated costs.
“The State of Alaska recognizes that advertising is an important effort and expensive investment,” the State’s memo continues. “Campaigns and volunteers should be aware of the prohibitions regarding advertising in and along the state’s public rights-of-way. For more information, please visit http://dot.alaska.gov/campaignsigns/and contact your regional state right-of-way office for assistance related to specific rights-of-way.”