D.C. Campaign Advertising

You may or may not have noticed in your time in Washington, D.C. that we lack billboards. Really. We don’t have that many. Practically none. Some people have created illegal billboards, I remember reading about it last year.

So, if there aren’t billboards, how do candidates advertise? On public property. This is illegal in most places in the country, like in Ohio and Missouri.

So, I wanted to know if this practice was legal. I called DC’s Board of Elections, which actually answered and provided a response — unlike DDOT which is yet to respond to my repeated inquiries. It is legal. Here is the DCBOE website’s summary:

Campaign Signs, Posters, and Placards on Public Property

The Board’s ability to regulate the placement of campaign materials is limited to the 50 feet surrounding and interior of any polling place. The placement of campaign signs, posters, and placards on public property outside of the 50 feet surrounding a polling place is regulated by the District Department of Transportation.

Candidates for Elected Office:

The placement of campaign signs, posters, and placards on public property is allowed, however, a candidate must seek a proper permit from the District Department of Transportation Public Space Office. For more information, you may call the Public Space Office at 202-442-4670.

The following excerpt from the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) Title 24 provides the rules that pertain to posting and removal of campaign materials in public space. By following these regulations, you will ensure that your campaign signs will serve their intended purpose – as civic reminders of the importance of exercising the right to vote – rather than as unfortunate signs of environmental blight and potential litter.

24 D.C. Municipal Regulations § 108

108.1 No person shall affix a sign, advertisement, or poster to any public lamppost or appurtenances of a lamppost, except as provided in accordance with this section.
108.2 The placing of any advertisement on any tree in public space is prohibited.
108.3 No poster or placard shall be publicly displayed or exhibited if it is lewd, indecent, or vulgar, or if it pictorially represents the commission of or the attempt to commit any crime.
108.4 Any sign, advertisement, or poster that does not relate to the sale of goods or services may be affixed on public lampposts or appurtenances of a lamppost, subject to the restrictions set forth in this section.
108.5 A sign, advertisement, or poster not related to a specific event shall be affixed for no more than sixty (60) days.
108.6 A sign, advertisement, or poster related to a specific event may be affixed any time prior to the event but shall be removed no later than thirty (30) days following the event to which it is related.
108.7 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall contain the date upon which it was initially affixed to a lamppost.
108.8 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed securely to avoid being torn or disengaged by normal weather conditions.
108.9 Signs, advertisements, and posters shall not be affixed by adhesives that prevent their complete removal from the fixture, or that do damage to the fixture.
108.10 No more than three (3) versions or copies of each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed on one (1) side of a street within one (1) block.
108.11 Within twenty-four (24) hours of posting each sign, advertisement, or poster, two (2) copies of the material shall be filed with an agent of the District of Columbia so designated by the Mayor. The filing shall include the name, address, and telephone number of the originator of the sign, advertisement, or poster.
108.12 For purposes of this section, a “public lamppost” is any public post erected for the purpose of supporting electric wires.

NOTE: Even though the rules allow campaign posters to remain up 30 days after the general election, candidates are asked to remove all signs as soon as possible after the election.

Members of the Public:

To make a proper complaint regarding campaign signs, posters, and placards on public property, you should call the District Department of Transportation System Inspection Oversight Division at 202-645-7050.

Unfortunately, DDOT, and not DCBOE has jurisdiction of campaign signs on lamp posts and such. Which is sad because I believe they are ineffective and incompetent.

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