Some frustrated by abundance of campaign signs; officials have little recourse

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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Political and campaign signs litter yards, roads and interstates across the Lowcountry and state, and some have been there for months. Many are calling the signs an eye-soar and question their legality.

The short answer is, it’s complicated. The state, Charleston County, and local municipalities all have various restrictions for the signs in place, some are more strict than others but most allow for the signs to be up for a period of time.

Joe Debney who serves as the Director of Elections for the county says there’s not much officials can do.

“We only have authority over campaign signs on election day and that just means they have to be away from the polling location,” says Debney.

In Charleston County, the signs can stay up well beyond election day if there are no local municipality restrictions in place.

“When the election is over, the county doesn’t have a policy on when those signs need to be picked up,” says Debney.

In the City of Charleston, rules for campaign signs are a little more strict.

If the signs are placed in a public right of way, Deputy Director of Traffic and Transportation for Charleston Robert Somerville says a city ordinance allows for the signs to be removed and destroyed.

“So as long as it’s not close to the road, in front of a sidewalk, within a ditch line or utility line, that’s considered the public right of way,” says Somerville.

During the month of October, Summerville says city workers removed more than 400 signs. He says city staff makes sure the signs are in clear violation of the ordinance before they are removed.

“We meet with our staff to make sure and even if there is a question, if it’s a question about it being on a public right of way or on private property, we tell them not to touch it,” says Somerville.

At the state level, SCDOT says signs are prohibited in public rights-of-way but officials say the department often doesn’t have the man power to remove them.

“SCDOT does not have the resources to patrol the streets if you will to remove campaign signs,” says Pete Poore, Director of Communications for the transportation department.

Poore says those in violation can receive up to a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. He says the restrictions come down to safety of drivers.

“SCDOT does not want traffic hazards created by political signs or any other kind of signs quite frankly,” says Poore.

As far as clean up of the signs, Charleston and Berkeley counties require the signs to be removed no more than 15 days after election day; in Dorchester County, campaign signs are required to be removed by one week after the election.

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