SULLIVAN CITY — Ahead of the municipal elections in May, the city adopted a new electioneering ordinance that regulates when it’s conducted at polling sites and also limits the number of signs per candidate at those locations.
The ordinance, approved by the council on Thursday, regulates when and how candidates and their supporters can be canvassing and electioneering at the polling sites.
Electioneering will not be allowed at a polling place before 5:30 p.m. the business day prior polls are set to open, and it will not be allowed after 24 hours after the polls close for each voting period.
Additionally, all signs on city property must be removed within 24 hours after the polls close for each voting period.
State election law prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of the door of a polling place. However, Sullivan City’s new ordinance also prohibits electioneering on driveways, parking areas, or medians within parking areas of a polling location.
The ordinance also makes it an offense to electioneer within 25 feet of the public road adjacent to the polling site and any fire hydrant or fire lane.
No electioneering will be allowed on a public roadway, however, the restriction will not apply to electioneering materials attached to a personal vehicle that is lawfully parked at a polling place.
The city is also limiting the number of signs per candidate that may be posted on designated city property at a polling place.
Only one sign, no larger than 4 feet by 8 feet, and only two yard signs, no larger than 24 inches by 18 inches, will be allowed.
The limit also applies to candidates who run on a political slate.
“Each candidate shall appear by name or by picture no more than once as provided above,” the ordinance reads.
The signs can also not exceed two sides, shall not be illuminated, and shall not contain any moving parts or elements.
The sign limit is meant to address the large number of campaign signs that are left after the elections, City Attorney Armando Marroquin told the city council during Thursday’s special meeting.
“We had our employees working maybe eight hours, 10 hours after every election spending taxpayers’ money picking up signs,” Mayor Leonel “Leo” Garcia said after the meeting, estimating there were about 300 to 400 signs left outside after the last elections.
“They all flew everywhere so we had signs all over the place,” he added. “All over the field, all over the parking lot, all over the cemetery; there had to be something done about that.”
Trailers displaying political signs will also not be allowed on city property during an election.
When it comes to signs on private property, the ordinance prohibits political or candidate signs from being posted within 5 feet from the edge of the street pavement or anywhere that obstructs vision for traffic.
The city is also looking to prevent damage to city property, making it an offense to “puncture, damage, destroy, or deface any real property improvements, personal property, equipment, irrigation systems, plants, turf, asphalt or concrete within or upon any public property in which a polling place is located.”
“We had some holes in the blacktop,” Garcia said about another reason the city was prompted to act. “It’s very expensive to fix those problems, as far as the city, so that’s something that had to be addressed.”
Barbeque pits at polling places will continue to be allowed in designated areas, however, each candidate will be responsible for keeping their areas clean, which includes disposing of all trash on a daily basis.
“I think it will have a positive impact as far as people having more of an ability, an easier way, to come and vote,” Garcia said.
Any violation of the ordinance will be considered a misdemeanor and penalized with a fine not to exceed $500.