In Utah, it is illegal to place campaign signs on freeway overpasses. This is a good law. It helps keep people traveling at high speeds safe. (Signs can be a distracting sight. Poorly-secured signs can detach and blow into traffic.) It prevents the use of public goods for personal priorities. Campaigns wishing to publicize their cause or candidate are free to purchase advertising, to convince private property owners to display signs, to promote their campaign on social media, to canvass neighborhoods and engage with voters, etc. But the campaigns should not feel free to misuse public space to advertise illegally.
I’ve been dismayed to see a dramatic proliferation of these illegally-placed signs. And even more dismayed to see them remain in place without any apparent repercussions. This may seem like a trivial gripe to some, but I think candidates playing by the same set of rules is critical to running fair elections. I do not think highly of many politicians in our state, but holding them to a standard of ensuring their campaigns follow the law seems like a low enough bar that we should be able to expect that.
On a recent trip traveling I-215 from the I-15 interchange to Foothill Boulevard, I counted 53 illegally-placed signs. The primary offending campaigns? Seven signs for Danielle Ahn for district attorney, who is asking voters to appoint her as Salt Lake County’s chief law enforcement officer. And eleven signs for Goud Maragani for Salt Lake County clerk, who is asking voters to let him oversee elections in our county.
Campaigns should follow the law. When they fail to do so, they should be held accountable — if not by government agencies, then by voters like you and me.
Zachary Noyce, Midvale