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Warning: Hands off political signs

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: October 5, 2016 1:00 AM
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by Bob Gaetjens | Reporter

Aurora -- October is here, and with it comes political yard sign season.

According to the Aurora Police Department's records staff, one police report about the theft of two signs was filed Sept. 27.

When people steal signs from lawns, they aren't stealing from the property owner, said Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin.

"What people don't realize is, technically, the signs are the property of the campaign and that if they are taken down, it's illegal," she said.

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Womer Benjamin said the city's law regulating when political signs could be posted has changed.

"The rule in Aurora used to be 30 days before the election," she said. "I think some people still think that's the rule."

Now, property owners may have political signs in their yards as soon as candidates are certified by the Portage County Board of Elections or another body confirming candidacy, she said.

Aurora Law Director Dean DePiero said the law applies the same way to candidates who file earlier in the year.

"Political speech is the most protected speech that you have," he said, adding property owners also can erect signs in support of write-in candidates. "You've got to really tread carefully on enforcement of that ordinance."

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According to Faith Lyon, Portage County Board of Elections director, Ohio Senate and House races filed in December 2015, along with Presidential candidates, in time for the presidential primary election in March.

U.S. House and Senate candidates filed with the Ohio Secretary of State sometime in the early summer, added Lyon.

Political signs in Aurora can be up to 9 square feet in size and up to 6 feet tall, according to Womer Benjamin.

"Signs are not allowed in the Aurora rights-of-way," she said. "We will take those down and usually deposit them behind the Walker Building [so they can be claimed]."

DePiero said the city will try to work with property owners in cases where signs are within the right-of-way.

"The right-of-way issues are more related more to safety," he said. "In that case, if we see signs that are in the right-of-way that might cause safety concerns, we might be able to pull them or move them. We probably would ask. We try to work with folks."

Political signs must be taken down within five days after the election, according to city law.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc

Facebook: Bob Gaetjens

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