Campaign materials, including clothing and hats, have been banned from the Boone County Courthouse.
While candidate signs may still be placed around the building on the day of a primary or general election — so long as they are 50 feet from an entrance — the Boone County Commissioners recently endorsed an ordinance that prohibits the use of signs or other election material at any other time.
A ban had been proposed that would have prohibited only campaign signs from being placed on the grass just inside the retaining wall surrounding the courthouse, and brochures from anywhere inside the courthouse.
The lawn signs had caused problems for maintenance personnel when they were mowing the grass, County Clerk Penny Bogan had said earlier this month when asking the commissioners to consider the restriction.
Bogan said that last year, two candidates for Zionsville Town Council had posted signs on the courthouse lawn. But because there are so many contested races for this year’s Republican primary, Bogan anticipated there would be “lots of signs.”
After County Attorney Bob Clutter read the ordinance however, Commissioner Charles Eaton said, “that would include apparel, I presume?”
“That’s just dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s,’” said Commissioner Jeff Wolfe.
Sheriff Ken Campbell asked for a clarification: “On election days, they can stand outside with hats and shirts on; the other days, they can’t?” he said.
“That’s correct,” Clutter said.
A county ordinance that bans election material from the Boone County Courthouse prohibits only county employees from wearing apparel with any political message. The ordinance does not apply to members of the public. However, the public is restricted by state law on election day. State law prohibits anyone from displaying or distributing any political message — including on clothing — within 50 feet of a polling site.
Eaton elaborated on the county’s political sign placement policy, a standard that applies throughout the state.
No signs are allowed within a road’s right-of-way, Eaton said. “I think people tend to forget that,” he said, saying the Boone County Highway Department has the right to remove signs in the right-of-way.
“If people put (political signs) where they aren’t supposed to be, and they disappear, that’s ‘life in the big city.’”
After being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and a city resident in 2008, Lebanon revoked its restriction on how long a sign could be exhibited on private property — but continued a ban on signs in right-of-way or where they might obstruct traffic signs or signals.
Political signs are prohibited from being posted on utility poles, on private property without the property owner’s permission, and in any highway right-of-way, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division.
“The sign may be removed only by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway,” the Election Division said in a guide to signs and disclaimer requirements on political advertising.
The right-of-way on a state highway extends to the back of a ditch, fence line, or to utility poles along a road, according to INDOT.
In Lebanon, “from the street to the edge of the sidewalk is right-of-way,” said Debby Shubert, administrative assistant to Mayor Huck Lewis. “A political sign, or any other kind of sign, cannot sit in the right-of-way; it has to be between the sidewalk and the home,” she said.
If there is no sidewalk, signs must be behind an imaginary line drawn between telephone or utility poles.