‘Getting ahead’ of campaign sign concerns

MARSHALL — Complaints about improperly-placed political signs became an issue for the city of Marshall in 2020, city staff said.

“We actually got a number of complaints. I think we averaged around 15 a week, and it got to the point where we needed to ensure compliance because of the complaints,” Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson said Tuesday.

With another election year here, the city is acting early to spread the word about proper sign placement.

“We wanted to get ahead of it,” Hanson said.

At Tuesday’s Marshall City Council meeting, Hanson shared rules for placing noncommercial signs like political signs, as well as procedures on sign complaints.

“The rules on political signs have been the same as state statute that dictates the timing of political sign placement, especially during the election year. The city doesn’t have a lot of say on that, except for of course we can talk about placement and where they can be placed,” Hanson said.

State statutes say noncommercial signs –including political signs — of any size may be posted in any number starting 46 days before the state primary in a general election year. The signs may be posted until 10 days after the state general election. This year, that time period runs from June 28 until Nov. 15.

Although the city can’t regulate the size or number of noncommercial signs during that window, the signs can’t be placed in the city right of way, Marshall city staff said. Signs can only be placed on private property with the owner’s permission. Signs must be at least 10 feet from the edge of the sidewalk. Signs also can’t be attached to items like fences, trees, street signs or utility poles.

On Election Day, campaign signs are not allowed within 100 feet of a polling place, or anywhere on public property where a polling place is located.

City staff said Marshall residents can look up where their property lines are online, by visiting https://geomoose.lyonco.org.

In 2020, the city received a large number of complaints about political signs in Marshall. Marshall Police ended up removing some signs that were the subject of complaints, and holding them for individuals to come pick up, Hanson said.

This month, city staff met with representatives of the local Republican and DFL parties to talk about procedures on how to handle sign complaints, Hanson said. The groups hoped they could avoid having public safety enforce sign complaints.

“They did agree to be a point of contact when there is a complaint,” Hanson said. City staff said that if a sign complaint is received and the sign is in violation of the state law or city code, the clerk’s office will contact the political candidate or responsible party.

“When there isn’t a Republican or Democratic candidate, we will try to get a hold of the candidate. We may get a hold of the property owner — we’ll try to find someone,” Hanson said. “We’re hoping that they can resolve it within 48 hours.”

If a political sign is in violation and poses safety concerns that require it to be removed, it will be held by the city for seven days, city staff said. Political signs placed on private property without the owner’s permission can be disposed of by the property owner.

More information on the rules and procedures for political signs in Marshall is available on the city website, at https://ci.marshall.mn.us/news_detail_T46_R55.phpa


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