Rules of the (political) road

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Q: Can I put political signs along the roadway where I live? Does the state, county or town have rules against this?

Section 15.02-109 of the Code of Virginia states, “No locality shall have the authority to prohibit the display of political campaign signs on private property if the signs are in compliance with zoning and right-of-way restrictions applicable to temporary nonpolitical signs, if the signs have been posted with the permission of the owner. The provisions of this section shall supersede the provisions of any local ordinance or regulation in conflict with this section. This section shall have no effect upon the regulations of the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

According to, a website focused on helping citizens and campaigns navigate different laws across the country, Virginia law on election signs pretty much follows what is used for all forms of outdoor signage, especially temporary signs, as outlined in Section 33.1-373 of the state code.

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The website outlines that the Virginia code prohibits election signs from being affixed to certain things within a state right-of-way. They cannot be affixed to a rock or stone; tree or stump; fence; pole; mile-board (marker) or milestone; danger-sign, guide-sign, guidepost or highway sign; historical marker; building; or any other object within the state’s right of way. further states that Virginia can assess a penalty of $100 for any election sign placed in a state right of way.

“If an overzealous supporter staples signs to telephone polls one afternoon, the campaign could face thousands of dollars in fines,” the website states.

The best thing to do, the website suggests, is contact the Virginia Transportation Commission, which oversees election sign placement, at (703) 383-8368.

Localities may impose their own restrictions as long as they don’t interfere with state law. Farmville Town Planner Cindy Morris said the town treats political signs as temporary signs.

“They can be placed anywhere, just not on town property or town rights-of-way,” Morris said. “Think of it this way: They can go behind a sidewalk, behind light poles, behind a fire hydrant.”

Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett said the county does not require permits for political signs, also treating them as temporary.

“They will be out there for a little while, then disappear,” Bartlett said. “VDOT controls their rights-of-way. We don’t interfere with that.”