- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - Political candidates in Lowndes County are finding out the hard way that the proper use of a measuring tape could be every bit as important as the art of a good handshake.

Mississippi Department of Transportation employees have removed as many as 70 signs from state rights of way, The Commercial Dispatch reports (https://bit.ly/1HkswnB ), confiscating, but not destroying, the signs belonging to several candidates.

MDOT superintendent Kirk Sudduth says he is enforcing state law in order to prevent visual hazards for drivers or obstructions for roadside workers. He says it’s also an effort to keep state land from becoming an endorsing ground for political candidates.

Sudduth does, however, have sympathy for the candidates and says he makes it easy for them to retrieve their oftentimes expensive signs.

“Those big ones can cost about $250,” Sudduth said. “We just stack them up … according to who they belong to so that they’re easy to find.”

One reason so many signs are being confiscated, Sudduth says, is because of the state’s widely varying laws. The minimum distance from the road’s center lines could be 40, 60 or 75 feet, depending on what the potential expansion plans were for the highway when it was built.

Still, some candidates accuse MDOT of being too strict.

Lowndes County school superintendent candidate Sammy Sullivan, who has had 27 of his signs removed recently, said most of his confiscated signs had appeared to be well within the confines of people’s yards.

“An ounce of common sense goes a long way,” Sullivan said. “These signs were not a distraction and not an obstruction. Now, I’m calling MDOT and making sure before I place them. I’m too old to keep having to take a post hole digger out and dig those holes.”

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, https://www.cdispatch.com

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