ACLU of Ohio Challenges Town's Limits on Display of Political Yard Signs

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
August 8, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU of Ohio
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Wednesday, August 8, 2001

CLEVELAND–The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today filed a lawsuit in federal court in Cincinnati challenging the limits placed on the display of election signs by the city of Fairfield in Butler County.

“The government cannot limit political expression at whim,” said ACLU volunteer attorney Michael Morgan of Cincinnati. “These restrictions mirror limits struck down by state and federal courts around the country, and we are confident that they violate the First Amendment.”

The Fairfield City Code imposes strict limits on the display of political yard signs, allowing them to be displayed only in connection with “recognized” political campaigns, and only after posting a $100 bond. City law limits the display of signs to a period beginning 30 days before an election and requires that signs be taken down within 10 days after the election has passed.

Such limits violate the First Amendment rights of both Engle and his supporters, as well as every resident of Fairfield, Morgan, said.

In fact, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated a similar set of restrictions imposed on political signs by the City of Painesville, in Lake County, in a decision handed down last year. Numerous federal courts have also invalidated restrictions limiting the display of political yard signs to the period immediately before and after an election, in part because such limits prohibit the display of political signs having nothing to do with candidates or ballot issues.

The ACLU has successfully challenged similar bans in the past, and considers the cases important because they affect a very basic form of political speech.

“Posting a sign is the only form of political speech in which many people ever engage,” said ACLU Ohio Staff Counsel Jillian Davis. “Laws like these clamp down on free expression when and where it counts most: near home, at election time.”

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