ACLU warned town officials last week that time restrictions on the posting of campaign signs on private property violates free speech rightsReversing an earlier decision, the attorney for the Town of Farmville has announced that campaign signs are not subject to an ordinance prohibiting the posting of temporary signs more than 30 days in advance of an event. The ACLU of Virginia wrote a letter to Farmville officials last week warning them that the First Amendment protects the right of residents to post political signs on their property whenever they choose.
The ordinance came under public scrutiny in early August when Jeremiah Heaton, a candidate for the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, was forced to cover a campaign sign he had erected in the yard of a friend. The friend lives in the part of Farmville that lies within Heaton’s election district in Cumberland. Heaton was told by town officials that the ordinance, although it did not specifically mention campaign signs, had been interpreted to prohibit campaign signs from being erected more than 30 days in advance of an election. Violators of the ordinance are subject to fines of up to $250 per day.
Heaton attended last week’s town council meeting armed with the letter from the ACLU and asking for a reinterpretation or repeal of the ordinance.
“Farmville made the right decision,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “This was faster and easier than a repeal of the ordinance, and it avoided the time and cost of litigation for everyone.”
“It is almost hard to imagine anything more quintessentially American than the right to put up a campaign sign in your front yard,” added Willis. “Campaign signs may not always be pretty, but in our democracy the right to express your views on political matters usually trumps aesthetics.”
Legal precedents striking down ordinances that regulate political signs on private property are indisputable. In her letter to Farmville Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr., sent on August 13, ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg sited six federal court cases specifically striking down time limits on political signs.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022