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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sign Ordinances and the Upcoming Election

As municipalities across Illinois prepare for the March 20, 2012 primary, it is a good time to revisit municipal sign ordinances and their effect on political signs. As followers @AncelGlinkLand already know, some municipalities are already reminding residents about existing sign regulations or even adopting new ordinances in advance of the upcoming election.

The renewed attention to political signs comes on the heels of the adoption of P.A. 96-0904 last January. This new law amended the zoning enabling statute to establish that “other than reasonable restrictions as to size, no home rule or non-home rule municipality may prohibit the display of outdoor political campaign signs on residential property during any period of time . . . .” 65 ILCS 5/11-13-1.  This means that home rule and non-home rule municipalities are prohibited from enforcing time restrictions on the display of outdoor political signs on residential property.  Many municipal sign ordinances had enacted time restrictions for election signs that require the removal of signs within a certain time period after an election and prohibit the placement of signs before a certain date before an election – those time restrictions are no longer enforceable.  A municipality can, however, still regulate the size of election signs.

This sign law was not groundbreaking, however, and is generally considered to be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in City of Ladue v. Gilleo.  In that case, the Supreme Court struck down a municipal sign ban that “almost completely foreclosed a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important” -- the display of political messages on residential property.

As the upcoming primary approaches, municipalities, candidates, and residents should review their municipality’s sign ordinance and the limits placed on these regulations by this fairly new sign law.

Post authored by Daniel J. Bolin.


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