FORT MYERS, Fla. — As we enter the 2020 election season, if you drive down large city roads like McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, you will notice political campaign signs in front of many businesses and homes.
State laws and city codes outline that campaign signs can be placed on private, not public, property.
Zach Burch, Communications Manager at the Florida Department of Transportation says the campaign signs placed in restricted areas can cause a multitude of problems for the state and the general public.
"No campaign signs by state law are allowed in the states ‘right of way’ which includes all state and federal roadways," says Burch.
The ‘right of way’ is the strip of land next to the road that is owned by the government. The FDOT says in general, any sidewalks and grass areas next to the road are a part of the state's right of way. Placing campaign signs in this area can affect public safety.
"The main reasons why it's not allowed, is we don’t want someone driving down the road trying to figure out what that little sign says on the side of the road. It becomes a distraction for drivers they’re constantly looking at all these different signs at what’s in the median," says Burch.
The FDOT says the signs are also a nuisance for maintenance crews.
"Those create a big obstacle for our workers. It delays them and puts them behind schedule which means that they’re not cutting the grass in front of your business or in front of your home," says Burch.
Incorrect signage can also create a false political affiliation for the city or state.
"We wouldn’t want to create the misconception that the state was supporting one candidate over another because we allowed one to put signs up and the other ones not to," says Burch.
In order to run for public office, the City of Fort Myers requires all candidates to sign a form saying they agree to follow the laws but still the rules are broken.
Burch says when this happens, the signs are removed and brought back to the FDOT center in Cape Coral where campaign members are notified and are allowed to pick the signs up before the state disposes of them.