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ODOT Cracks Down on Political Signs
Mostly impacts Republicans

The Oregon Department of Transportation has issued a press release describing the requirement for a variance for any sign that is greater than 12 square feet and is visible from a state highway. Most political field signs are 32 square feet. The rules were posted recently on the ODOT website. Persons, including political campaigns, who wish to place signs greater than 12 feet can apply to ODOT for a temporary variance.

Though the rules have been in place for years, they haven't been enforced, or have only been enforced on a "complaint driven" basis. According to ODOT,
ODOT's sign program is located in the Salem ODOT offices, and has some level of responsibility for controlling all signs that are visible to state highways throughout Oregon. Their response to temporary sign placement is generally “complaint” driven. In an effort to stem a majority of complaints, ODOT often issues a press release around election time, to help answer questions and to provide information for those who are placing signs. ODOT's release was in response to citizen complaints the department has been receiving recently. One legislator said he suspects that the group Progressive Yamhill is responsible for the bulk of the complaints.

The temporary sign process was changed by the Legislature in May of 2007, in response to the Oregon Supreme Court decision in December of 2006 that held that the Oregon Motorist Information Act (ORS 377.700 through 377.844 & 377.992) was unconstitutional in its permitting requirements. Since that time, the sign program has increased the time a temporary sign is allowed to remain in place from 90 days to 120 days in response to citizen concerns about signs for seasonal businesses. Also changed was the restriction only allowing a variance for size, or time. The OAR now allows a sign owner to request a variance for both, the larger size, and extended posting time, for the same sign. Other than those two changes, the ORS and OAR have remained largely unchanged since they were implemented in 2007.

Stepped up enforcement of these regulations is thought to impact Republicans more than Democrats, because Republicans are more popular in rural areas that are good locations for large political signs.

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2020-09-22 08:34:29Last Update: 2020-09-22 10:56:01

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