The old Johnny Horton country song goes, “When it’s springtime in Alaska, it’s 40 below.”
Well, it’s not 40 below, but when it’s springtime in Mississippi, the political signs will grow.
And with the current election cycle underway, the signs are budding all over DeSoto County and elsewhere in the Magnolia State.
While cities and the county may have different requirements about the size and placement of those political signs, the Mississippi Department of Transportation takes the signs’ location on their highways pretty seriously.
Jason Scott with MDOT in Jackson reminds candidates and their supporters that signage is not allowed inside the right-of-way of state highways. In fact, it is illegal to do so.
Scott said there are several reasons behind the prohibition.
“Having signs placed right there in the right-of-way can cause line-of-sight issues and can impair the vision of the traveling public,” Scott said. “Larger signs can be a hazard on the road if vehicles veer off and run into them. Even the smaller signs, if they’re put in a place with tall grass and our crews come by and mow, they can become projectiles and be thrown into the travel lane.”
The code that established the political sign regulations is from 1972, so the rules have been around for awhile.
Scott said MDOT crews essentially are forced to become the “sign police” and they do have the power to take down any signs they see that are illegally placed or erected.
“Our crews know the areas that they work and know where the right-of-way is,” Scott explained. “If the campaign signs are inside of the MDOT right-of-way, our maintenance crews will pull and remove those signs and take them to the closest maintenance facility to that area. It’s our guys on the road day-in and day-out who know where the right-of-way is and pull those signs as part of their work.”
He added candidates can come to that facility and retrieve their signs free of charge. MDOT will keep signs at the facility for two weeks before they are disposed of.
Scott also noted the right-of-way distance from the roadside varies and candidates should call the local MDOT maintenance office if they have any questions. The distance is typically greater as you get closer to an intersection.
“There’s not a standard right-of-way distance,” Scott said.
Campaign signs are part of our freedom of speech and expression as Americans, but still become a distraction during the election season. Scott said MDOT hopes those expressions remain safely away from their roadways until after Election Day, when both winners and losers become respectful and completely remove them and put them away until next time.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.