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Campaign sign rules a sign of the times

By now, we all heard the different versions of the upside-down flag outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. The apparent dispute between Alito’s wife and a neighbor reached peculiar levels.

In short, a neighbor admitted in one media outlet of posting a profanity-laced anti-Trump sign in her yard. Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, according to media accounts, responded by flying an upside-down American flag. His wife is also blamed for displaying another flag known as the “Appeal to Heaven.”

The dispute between these two neighbors made national headlines because of Alito’s job on Supreme Court.

While this dispute may seem petty in some circles, it should remind us how political disputes can rise to the level of causing blight in our communities.

While flags are not involved, we applaud the Marshall City Council getting ahead of any possible issues involving campaign signs before November’s General Election. During the City Council meeting earlier this month, city staff shared rules for proper placement for political signs. Staff was motivated by complaints about improperly-paced political signs in 2020.

“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.

Hanson told the Council that state statute dictates the timing of political sign placement. However, the city can talk about placement and where they can be placed.

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.

While 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.

As we get closer to November, we expect the level of political discourse across the nation to heat up to the point of ugliness. While we can’t control what we watch on TV — other than turn it off — we urge candidates and residents to keep it civil in Marshall.

After all, we are neighbors now — and we will be neighbors after the election.

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