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Campaign signs are subject to laws

NATCHEZ — As the August election draws closer, more and more campaign signs appear in the city and county, but not always in their legal places.

A City of Natchez ordinance states the total surface area of any campaign signs on any given public lot can be no larger than 8 square feet and must be confined to private property and kiosks located in the public space.

The ordinance also states signs can be placed no less than 5 feet from the edge of any street and no less than 100 feet from the nearest curb or intersection.

“Every year, we have problems like this where we have new people running who don’t know the rules,” Planning and Zoning Director Ricardo Giani said. “I don’t think its anyone’s fault. It’s just the most visible places are at intersections where it’s not always the safest, and it can be a big issue when you have too many signs building up in one place.”

Another issue presented itself in this election period and was posted by a candidate on social media last week.

The candidate posted a video of himself picking up a large number signs from a road ditch he said were removed from their legal placements on private rights-of-way.

The same rules apply to people who steal or destroy campaign signs from private properties as those who trespass private land and steal or destroy personal property, Giani said.

“It’s the same issue either way,” Giani said, “and those lawbreakers would be penalized the same way as you would someone who came on your private property and started messing things up.”

Campaign signs that are in violation of city ordinances are usually picked up by the Public Works department without any penalty to the candidates unless the issue continues after notices are given, Giani said.

“If there are clear, obvious violators that are told time and time again that they are breaking the law, we may issue fines,” Giani said, “but that has not happened during this election season or for as long as I have been around.”

Campaign signs can only be posted after the qualification deadline for the election they represent, Giani said, and any candidate not in the polls must remove their signs within seven days after the election ends unless they are eligible for a run-off election.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation also enforces state laws concerning campaign signs located along state highways, including those in Adams County.

According to Section 63-3-317 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, it is illegal to place signs within the right-of-way on state highways, and the width of highway right-of-way varies by location and includes the driving lanes, shoulders, mowed areas and potentially may reach distances of 300 feet or more from the centerline of driving lanes.

Signs are also not permitted where they could inhibit a driver’s view at intersections, and any illegally placed signs will be removed by MDOT crews and kept for two weeks at a local MDOT maintenance facility before they are discarded.

Candidates may retrieve their signs from MDOT without penalty.