Political signs can be placed in public rights of way, but only with the actual property owner's permission

LACONIA — Although there are less than a handful of competitive races on the ballot for the municipal election on Tuesday, in the waning days of the campaign signs touting individual candidates have begun to disappear from places they, legally, do not belong.

This week signs have been removed from the roundabout at The Weirs as well as traffic islands and road sides elsewhere in the city.

Chapter 109-1 of the City Code, entitled "advertising", stipulates that "the placing of billboards or advertising signs and the posting of bills, posters, notices or other forms of advertising on any bridge, building or other municipal property of this city are hereby forbidden." City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he understands the ordinance to require that political signs be placed only on private property with the consent of the property owner.

Likewise, state law (RSA 664:17), reads "no political advertising shall be placed on or affixed to any public property including highway rights-of-way or private property without the owner's consent." However, the statute continues to say that "political advertising may be placed within state-owned rights-of way as along as the advertising does not obstruct the safe flow of traffic and the advertising is placed with the consent of the owner of the land over which the right-of-way passes."

Furthermore, state law forbids any person, other than private property owners or law enforcement officials, from removing, defacing or destroying political
advertising improperly placed on either public or private property. The statute requires signs removed by public officials before the election to be kept at a designated location for one week after the election where they can be recovered by candidates.