Signs signal start of spring election season

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DRC
David Minton/DRC
More than a dozen election signs line the parking lot of the Shell gas station at the corner of Fort Worth Drive and Country Club Road recently in Denton.

Small and large, most printed in some combination of red, white and/or blue, a bumper crop of political signs has emerged on Denton County roadsides, signaling the start of spring election season.

This first crop touts the party primary races on March 4. Eight incumbents, including the county judge and district attorney, face challengers in the Republican primary. Four more races have multiple candidates vying to replace outgoing officials, including the county clerk and three judicial seats.

Candidates in the Democratic primary aren’t opposing each other, but have lined up to challenge six Republican incumbents this fall.

So far, candidates and their supporters are remembering where they can and cannot place the signs, according to city of Denton spokeswoman Lindsey Baker.

“We haven’t had any trouble this year,” Baker said.

The Texas Legislature has somewhat restricted cities in their rules for sign placement to protect political speech. The city cannot prohibit signs on private property, nor can it require a permit, restrict the size or charge more for removing a political sign than the fee for other signs.

The city is allowed to prohibit signs on city property, except it must allow them on election day,when electioneering laws specify that signs cannot be closer than 100 feet from a polling place.

Where the city can make rules, Denton doesn’t allow political signs to be placed on public property,including utility poles, trees, fences, street medians or other existing signs.

State law also forbids political signs as part of a general provision prohibiting outdoor signs in the right of way of public roads. While a sweeping regulation, the law also gives cities a little leeway to write exceptions for signs on municipally owned and maintained rights of way.

City crews will remove signs that violate the rules, Baker said, although they haven’t had to do that yet this year.

Similarly, Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips said the county hasn’t had any trouble with candidates picking up their signs after the election is over, particularly since the county doesn’t have any rules about sign placement.

City residents who come across a potential violation of sign placement can call the Community Improvement Services Division to request an investigation at 940-349-8743.

Staff writer Bj Lewis contributed to this report.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.


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