The District’s primary occurred on June 21 but in many neighborhoods, some candidates’ signs remain posted in public places including on telephone poles and fences despite a law mandating that by now, they should have been removed.
“The first week after the primary, my team and I started taking down our posters,” said Lisa Gore, who sought the Democratic Party nomination for the D.C. Council at-large seat. “We did it because the election was over and it was time to move on to other things. Besides, we didn’t want to get in trouble with the city.”
Title 24, section 108.6 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations indicates that a “sign, advertisement, or poster related to a specific event shall be removed no later than 30 days following the event to which it is related.”
In the case of the June primary, July 21 serves as the latest date campaign signs should have come down. After the Nov. 8 general election, Dec. 8 will be the deadline for candidates to discard their signs.
Regulating campaign signs in the District falls under the purview of several agencies. The Office of Campaign Finance has the task to ensure signs have information about who paid for them. The Board of Elections has the responsibility for making sure signs are at least 50 feet from the entrance of a voting precinct. The Department of Transportation supervises rules for the posting of candidates’ signs beyond 50 feet. And the Department of Public Works serves as the general enforcer of rules and regulations related to campaign.
After the 30-day deadline passes, candidates face being assessed fines ranging from $150 to $2,000 by the Department of Transportation, depending on when a candidate complies with the regulations.
Residents may keep campaign signs on their personal property for as long as they wish.
Candidates who win their primaries may keep their signs up until 30 days after the general election like D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, as an example, who secured the nomination to represent the Democratic Party on the November general election ballot. As a result, the Bowser campaign can keep its primary signs up until the end of the general election cycle.
Gore said she had a post-primary plan in place if she failed to win.
“We did get a letter from the board of elections informing us that our signs need to come down – I think everyone got that letter,” she said. “We had signs all over the city, so we encouraged our volunteers and supporters to take them down. We didn’t want residents to call us and say, ‘Hey Lisa, come over here – you have some signs’ and we certainly didn’t want to pay a fine.”
Gordon Fletcher ran for the Democratic nomination for the Ward 5 council seat in a race won by Ward 5 D.C. State Board of Education member Zachary Parker who will represent the Democrats in the general election. Parker’s signs can stay up according to the law but Fletcher’s had to come down.
“Last week I received a letter from the board of elections reminding me to take down all of my signs,” Fletcher said. “I have worked to comply. While I know it is law, I am also taking down my signs for environmental purposes. Signs can become litter and clutter the environment and that has become the forefront of why I and my volunteers have worked so diligently to pick them up.”
Maureen Boucher served as the treasurer for Ward 3 council candidate Phil Thomas. Boucher said the Thomas campaign had no problem taking down their signs.
“We hired someone to do that,” she said. “Plus, we organized a couple of high schoolers to take down signs. We wanted to make sure the signs were down before the foliage set in and covered them up. We didn’t want the plants to grow over them.”