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Austin Has Rules About How Candidates Use Political Signs. They're Just Routinely Ignored.

A bunch of campaign signs on Election Day.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Austin has rules about where candidates can place signs and how long they can leave them up.

Not all this year’s political races are decided, but candidates whose races have been called have a lot of cleaning up to do. Austin city code says campaigns have 10 days to remove their political signs after an election. It's just one of many rules about signs that are often ignored.

You wouldn’t know it by driving around the city, but signs are also not supposed to go on public property. They cannot be placed in a right of way, on intersection corners or in a median. They can't be placed on private property, like vacant lots, without the property owner’s permission.

Dedric Knox, a supervisor with the Austin Code Department, concedes many candidates flaunt those rules.

“Since our city is involved in an electoral process this happens routinely, we know that this occurs,” he said. “The signs are allowing the public to know who may be running for office, but those signs are in violation.”

Fidel Acevedo of the Progressive Hispanic Democrats removes campaign signs outside the Ruiz Branch Library the day after the election.
Credit Julia Reihs / KUT
Fidel Acevedo of the Progressive Hispanic Democrats removes campaign signs outside the Ruiz Branch Library the day after the election.

Knox said Austinites should call 311 to report old signs cluttering up a right of way.

“We have no obligation to tell any [campaign] about it," he said. "We will remove them if they are an obstruction to traffic or view."

Campaigns could be fined "not less than $50" for a first violation, he said. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $2,000 for a sign illegally placed.

So why do campaigns seem so comfortable doing it?

“Now, that I don’t know,” Knox said with a laugh.

Others have ideas.

In a 2016 interview with the Austin American-Statesman, outgoing County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty suggested the benefit of candidates getting their name out there may outweigh the cost of getting warned or even cited for a code violation.

Got a tip? Email Mose Buchele at mbuchele@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele

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