Well, election time has come and gone for 1998, but Rock Out Censorship has learned that in at least one part of the country, the season has not ran its course censorship-free. According to the American Civil Liberties Union five towns in South Carolina have implemented speech restrictions on campaign signs on private property. Yes, PRIVATE property. In Mt. Pleasant, Hanahan, Gaffney and Rock Hill you may only display a campaign sign in your front yard for your favorite candidate on specified dates thanks to local ordnances there. And in Hilton Head it is forbidden to display campaign signs of any kind anytime!
This flies directly in the face of a ruling by a 1994 Supreme Court ruling. Justice O'Connor wrote then, "content discrimination in regulations on the speech of private citizens on private property is presumptively impermissible." These five towns seem to have conveniently forgotten this guaranteed form of free speech or perhaps forgotten the spirit of a free election, be it a local or national one.
As with all elections it seems, those who have the most money to spend on a political campaign usually end up being the ones who win. Let's face it, many of those who would perhaps become great leaders just don't have the bank rolls of candidates who are backed and supplied by national and multi-national corporations. The only way for some candidates to get noticed is through the placing of neighborhood signs in private yards. A great many potential office holders could be lost because of speech restricting ordinances like those in South Carolina. And besides that, it's your First Amendment Right to place whatever you want whenever you want in your front yard! It doesn't matter if that should happen to be an ugly garden gnome or a beautiful symbol of the spirit of free elections - the campaign sign.
Be aware during your next local election season: if your city or community has any ordinances or by-laws restricting what you can place in your yard, please contact us at our Report An Incident section here and let us know.
Thanks as always to the ACLU for this information. http://www.aclu.org