Today's post is a quick reminder of the legal restrictions on municipal regulation of political signage. In Illinois, municipalities should be aware of three important limitations on their powers to regulate election signs:
1. Illinois Zoning Enabling Act.
A few years ago, the Illinois General Assembly passed P.A. 96-0904 amending 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 law prohibits, among other things, a restriction on how long campaign signs can be placed in residential yards (i.e., you can no longer require homeowners to remove campaign signs within 7 days after the election). You should check your local sign regulations to ensure they are not inconsistent with this law.
2. First Amendment.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which struck down an Arizona town's temporary sign regulations, finding the regulations to be content-based regulations that violated the First Amendment. Based on this opinion, municipalities need to be careful to make sure that their temporary sign regulations do not differentiate based on the content of the message unless the municipality can meet the high scrutiny content-based speech regulations are subject to. At a minimum, municipalities should review their temporary sign regulations to determine whether they treat temporary signs differently based on the content (i.e., real estate, garage sale, campaign signs, etc.).
3. Election Day Signage.
As a general rule, Illinois municipalities can prohibit campaign and other signage from being placed on government property. However, Section 17-29 of the Illinois Election Code does allow campaign signs to be placed on government property that is being used as a polling place on election day, and also during early voting periods, so long as these signs are located outside of the campaign free zone, as defined by state statute.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf