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Fairfax County Cracks Down On Campaign Signs

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Signs like these in Alexandria from last June's primary are can now be removed by officials before the election in Fairfax County.
Rebecca Cooper
Signs like these in Alexandria from last June's primary are can now be removed by officials before the election in Fairfax County.

It's a sign of the times for this year's election season in Fairfax County: there are far fewer political billboards and placards advertising candidates clogging road sides and medians in than there were in previous years. That's because a new law in is deterring candidates from putting political signs on public property. 

Whether or not the signs were ever legal was always open to interpretation, says Virginia Del. Dave Albo (R). Albo introduced a law earlier this year that clarified that all political signs are illegal if they are on public property. 

"One attorney general said a political sign is an advertisement," Albo says. "Another attorney general at some time had written an opinion saying that political signs are not an advertisement. 

Campaign signs remain perfectly legal on private property, such as homes and yards, under Albo's bill, which passed in April.  But from now on, all signs in medians and on public property are illegal.

"When I, right now, see a political sign, to me that's an anti-advertisement because here's a person who is running to write laws and they are purposefully violating one," Albo says.  

Albo's law also amended a part of the state code that specific to Fairfax County making it illegal for anybody to remove a political sign until after an election. Now, according to the new law, Fairfax County can enter into an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation allowing the local government to collect the signs before the election.

"That agreement would allow us to enforce the sign law, which would involve the county being able to remove the signs and fine the people who put them up," says Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor for the Springfield District. Violators could be fined $100 for each sign.

Even though the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has yet to vote on an agreement, political parties are already discouraging candidates and volunteers from placing signs on public property.

"I am absolutely ecstatic that we've got the candidates on both sides in Fairfax County paying attention to the law that basically for a long time has said that you couldn't put political signs in the median," says Herrity.

By this time next year, county officials may be out looking for violators  and issuing fines. 

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