Ban on Political Signs Violates Freedom of Speech

Submitted as a letter to the Keene Sentinel:

In a 3 to 1 vote, the Planning, Licenses, and Development committee passed a resolution to prohibit the posting of political advertising on city property and public rights-of-way. The resolution goes to full council on the 20th.

To many, the the political signage around town can be messy at times, especially during presidential years, but this resolution is a clear violation of our freedom of speech rights and also conflicts with current state statute that protects placing political signs on public property.

As it stands, RSA 31:41-c authorizes municipalities to create bylaws regulating electioneering. But state statute RSA 664:17 protects the placement of political signs on public rights-of-way, as long as it doesn’t obstruct the safe flow of traffic.

This comes right on the heels of a ridiculous new amendment to RSA 659:43 that now prohibits voters from entering the polling place wearing campaign related clothing. Clearly some of our state reps have entirely too much time on their hands.

Passing this new ordinance will undoubtedly open up lawsuits against the city which they will likely lose. The courts do routinely recognize extra protections for political speech. That means “we” the taxpayers will be picking up the tab as usual for mistakes made by the city. Please contact your city councilors and urge them to vote against this.

Conan Salada

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4 Comments

  1. Sorry but they can ban political signs on public land. Just like they can ban religious icons on public land. It isn’t about 1st amendment rights. You should know better.

  2. I will be the first one to place a sign on public lands in Keene, then. Not before I consult with Jon Meyer, of course. But I would love to test this law within the courts, all the way to the federal supremes if need be. This is laughable. The city of Keen is reducing itself to the laughing stock of the NH judicial system. First the Robin Hood case, now this? Have they even heard of the 1st amendment?

    Sorry Jacks, but your’e wrong, this has been historically protected since the revolution. If political speech can be banned in town square, then it can be outlawed anywhere. This will not fly in the courts, just as banning the ability to speak one’s mind to a public official in public did not.

  3. The right answer to the wrong question only provides evidence that the right question(s) hasn’t been asked or answered yet.

    If something is alleged to be public property  how can a small group of people be the only ones who determine the use of it ?

      Private property is redundant. Public property is an oxymoron.

  4. InternetJeb No, public land is just that, public land. You cannot put religious icons or place advertisements for political reasons on public land that is within Keene. No court would even touch this because it’s public land. You don’t have the right to post your political views or religious views over anyone else. Yes, it will fly in the courts.

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