WYDOT To Politicians: Don’t Put Your Campaign Signs In Illegal Places

Although it may be tempting to place election signs in the middle of highways, roads, and public rights-of-way for maximum exposure, WYDOT said they will remove the sign if it violates state law.

Ellen Fike

May 26, 20224 min read

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As the candidate filing period wraps up Friday for Wyoming’s primary election in August, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is reminding candidates to avoid placing their signs on highways, roads, and public rights-of-way.

Although it could be tempting to place a political sign on the median or the shoulder of Interstate 80 or some other busy roadway for maximum exposure, it’s not a good idea and, more importantly, it’s against the law, the department said.

Signs can pose a serious safety issue, not to mention creating ill will toward candidates who blatantly ignore the law in the pursuit of elected office.

But it’s not just campaigns that are the problem, WYDOT spokesman Doug McGee said. People who advertise for garage sales and real estate are guilty too.

Even declarations of love, no matter how sincere, cannot be placed on a sign and put in a public right-of-way.

“It’s a safety hazard, mainly,” McGee told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “The signs we put in the rights-of-way are for directional and informational purposes and are designed to be as safe as possible in the event of a crash, whether it falls forward or goes over it.”

The Lamont Incident

Jonathan Downing, a veteran of many Wyoming campaigns, recalled a scuffle between a candidate he was working for and the Wyoming Department of Transportation over a road sign back in 1994.

WYDOT had announced it was taking down a population sign for the town of Lamont, north of Rawlins, as it was no longer an incorporated community. 

A bed and breakfast owner who lived in the community of three said the road sign was a point of pride and passersby stopped to take a photo next to it and some ended up staying at her business.

Rob Wallace, a candidate for U.S. House in 1994, announced he was going to re-install the road sign as its removal was an example of government overreach.

Downing said Wallace was told if he re-installed the sign he would be arrested.

The campaign jumped on it.

“We thought it would be a great news story if Rob was arrested putting up a new road sign so we went ahead with the strategy,” Downing said.

He said ultimately the planned was foiled, however, as the old sign was never removed by WYDOT.

“I think Rob was relieved, in retrospect, that he wasn’t arrested,” Downing said. “We thought it would be hilarious but, then again, we weren’t the ones who would have been thrown into the hoosegow.”

The campaign ended up making commercials out of the incident anyway, Downing said, which were viewed positively by voters.

“The campaign ads were awesome,” he said. “I still have them on VHS along with some vintage episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.”

Back To The Future

McGee and fellow WYDOT spokeswoman Jordan Achs would not share the names of the biggest campaign culprits so far in 2022 when it came to placing election signs in appropriate places. But both agreed it is common to see signs in the wrong places all over the state during an election season.

If a sign is found to be in an inappropriate place, WYDOT workers will remove it and contact the person on the sign, telling them to come get their sign and take it somewhere else.

“We’re trying to work with them to get it in a better location where they can still show their support, just without it being in the right of way,” Achs said.

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Ellen Fike