ACLU of Maine Says Local Ordinances Violate Free Speech

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
September 13, 2012 2:07 pm

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The ACLU of Maine was recently contacted by candidates complaining their local government had told them to remove political lawn signs based on their content. They were told to remove the signs or face citation and substantial fines.

“These ordinances single out the restriction of political speech – which is unconstitutional,” said Alysia Melnick, a lawyer with the ACLU of Maine. “Local governments can’t legislatively silence political speech by treating political messages different from other types of signs.”

The ACLU opposes government ordinances limiting the duration, time, size or number of political yard signs unless they are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest and, without exception, oppose any specialized enforcement mechanism for signs carrying a political message.

“Political speech is at the core of the First Amendment,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “In Maine communities, political lawn signs play a crucial role in political campaigns, so we want to make sure it’s clear that people have the right to display political signs.”

The ACLU of Maine is requesting that cities and towns with these ordinances immediately abandon enforcement and act to remove the laws from their books. They say local governments cannot:

  • Limit the time a political sign is posted on a resident’s property, even if the issue is not current or the election has passed;
  • Require a fee to post a sign;
  • Impose unreasonable limits on sign size, placement from curb or number of signs posted per yard; or
  • Treat political signs less favorably than other types of lawn signs.

The ACLU of Maine has asked that anyone faced with the enforcement of these types of laws please contact them.

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