City officials say not so fast as early political signs violate code

Sam Fosness, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.
·3 min read

Apr. 6—As Mitchell's June 8 election nears, a few candidates have already begun posting political signs in yards throughout the city.

However, the Mitchell candidates who have placed signs in lawns recently found out it's too early to do so. According to the city's code for political signage, candidates running for office at all levels of government, including local, state and federal elections, may place signs in yards 60 days prior to the official election date. With a few days left yet before the 60-day count begins for the upcoming June 8 election, any political signage posted on private property is considered a breach of city code.

"As a suggestion for all candidates, they should make sure to know what the political sign codes are and all of the other election rules that come with being a candidate," said City Planner Neil Putnam, who oversees some of the election rules. "There is a lot that comes with running as a candidate."

After Putnam noticed political signs for Jason Bates, a mayoral candidate, and Debra Emme, Mitchell Board of Education candidate, were posted in yards too early, Putnam sent out a letter to every candidate running for office, which detailed the city's political sign codes to avoid any more potential issues. The Mitchell Republic reached out to Bates, who declined to comment on the signs, while Emme didn't respond prior to the publishing of this story.

In Putnam's letter, he also outlined signs must not be placed on public property, utility poles and road signs. In addition, signs must not be placed within the public right-of-way and the "sight view triangle on corner streets," according to city code.

While each candidate who properly submits a petition is expected to be aware of the city's election and political signage rules that can be found on the city's website and by inquiring with city officials, Putnam said it's not too uncommon for issues like the sign mishaps to arise.

"We've had this happen before, and 99% of the time it is not an issue when candidates are informed they need to take a temporary sign down before or after an election," Putnam said. "The purpose of this letter was to inform every single candidate, so we are not singling out anyone."

A time frame for posting political signs in yards before the election isn't the only part of the city's code. Political signs must also be taken down within 10 days following the respective election that the signs were associated with, according to city code.

Although five months have passed since the 2020 Presidential election on November 8 occurred, some property owners still have presidential signs posted in their lawns. Considering the timeline of political signage being posted before and after elections applies to all elections at every level of government per the city code, signs that are still up for respective elections that occurred more than 10 days ago are also subject to removal.

In the past, Putnam said he and other city officials, such as the code enforcement officer and police officers, have had to remove some signs for people who choose not to comply with the city's code. However, Putnam said that also rarely happens, as he noted property owners are "great" about removing the signs when asked through a letter or verbal exchange.

"People are usually always cooperative when a sign is supposed to be removed," Putnam said.