- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

The votes have been counted, the victory and concession speeches have been delivered, and the money has been spent — but the campaign signs will be allowed to linger for a while.

In the District, Maryland and Virginia, there are no consistent rules governing when campaign signs must come down or what the campaign committees responsible for them face in penalties.

For example, D.C. campaign committees this year have until Dec. 7 — 30 days after Election Day — to remove their signs from public property. But with a $35-per-sign fine, they also face the stiffest penalties.

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“Residents, through council members, have told us that the signs are unsightly, especially after having been weathered,” said Mary Myers, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works. “We take their complaints very seriously.”

Alexandria officials instituted a 15-day deadline, which expires on Nov. 22, and campaigns forfeit a $100 bond they paid with their sign permit if their signs are not removed.

“It’s always a general issue of concern, and people call and complain of general clutter,” said Steve Milone, division chief of zoning and land-use services for Alexandria.

Merni Fitzgerald, a Fairfax County government spokeswoman, said ordinances allow campaign signs in that jurisdiction to stay for 15 days past the election, although Virginia law doesn’t allow county officials to remove the signs.

Lt. Eric Burnett, a Montgomery County Police Department spokesman, said that enforcing the 15-day rule has never been an issue. He said the signs on private property are taken care of by the owners and the others are usually taken down by campaign workers.

“We haven’t had any problems in the past, but who knows what will come up this year,” he said.

Lt. Burnett said that police officials have not discussed enforcement options, adding that they may just place a call to the campaign responsible for the sign.

In Arlington County, campaigns have the least amount of time — five days, or until Nov. 12 — to remove their signs.

“If it’s public property, government can take them down whenever they want to, but not before the five days is up,” said Terry Russell, Arlington County zoning administrator. “Either we can go along and clean them … or we can order parties to come take them down.”

He said officials are authorized to send campaign committees a notice of violation and an order of correction.

State transportation officials say they aren’t worried about the signs sticking around on state roads for too long.

“Most candidates are good about removing the signs, and most are gone two to three days after the election,” said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

David Buck, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman, agreed.

“Slowly, but surely, they will dissipate,” he said.

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