Town should also inform citizens of right to erect signs, says civil liberties groupThe ACLU of Virginia today asked the Culpeper Town Council to repeal its ordinance prohibiting the placement of campaign signs on private property more than 20 days before an election. The ACLU also asked the Town Council to refrain from enforcing the ordinance until it is repealed.
“The ordinance violates one of the most fundamental principles of free speech—your right, on your own property, to express your views on a political campaign,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Not only must Culpeper repeal this ordinance, it should also make a public announcement letting every town resident know that they have a constitutional right to erect a campaign sign in their front yard anytime they choose.”
“We would like assurances from Culpeper officials that it will not be enforcing this ordinance,” added Willis. “If we do not hear from them, we may be a position to offer legal representation to any candidate or citizen who wants to place campaign signs on private property more than 20 days before an election. We encourage these individuals to contact our office.”
Legal precedents striking down ordinances that regulate political signs on private property are indisputable. In her letter to the Culpeper Town Council Rebecca K. Glenberg writes:
In City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43 (1994), the Supreme Court unanimously struck down an ordinance that prohibited nearly all residential signs. The Court noted that the ordinance “almost completely foreclosed a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.” Further, “[r]esidential signs are an unusually cheap and convenient form of communication. Especially for persons of modest means or limited mobility, a yard or window sign may have no practical substitute.”
Glenberg also sites six other federal court cases specifically striking down time limits on political signs.
A copy of the fax from the ACLU of Virginia can be downloaded at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20030908-Culpeper-Sign-Ordinance-Fax.pdf.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022