By Corinne Murdock
Last week, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill into law making it a misdemeanor to remove, alter, or deface political signs up to 15 days after a primary or general election. Previously, the law prohibited those actions only up to a week after an election. This would apply to any political signage or materials posted by citizens – not just those put up by candidates.
Nearly all Democrats voted against the bill. All Democrats in both the House and Senate voted no, with the exception of State Senator Sean Bowie (D-Chandler).
The bill was introduced by State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale). Ugenti-Rita explained in committee that this statutory change was prompted by discrepancies existing in law, where individuals have the right to leave up political signage for up to 15 days after an election. This law would ensure that this right receives protection in the event of a theft or vandalism.
State Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) asked why Ugenti-Rita didn’t choose to limit the amount of time individuals could keep up political signs instead.
“My constituents hate signs,” explained Mendes. “They hate that they need to keep signs up a day after the election.”
Ugenti-Rita explained that her focus was mainly on making the stipulations in current law consistent. She said that she didn’t have any issue with the amount of days allowed for political signage to remain up. In fact, Ugenti-Rita said she agreed with Mesnard’s constituents that political signs were an “eye-sore” and that people should be managing them responsibly.
During the final vote on the Senate floor, Mendez explained that he voted against this bill because he thought candidates should remove their signs within a week.
“Members, if you’re not able to take down your campaign signs in the already-allotted time, then you shouldn’t be putting up so many campaign signs,” said Mendez. “The public is only doing us a favor by removing your litter if you don’t remove it yourself. And there’s no reason they should be sentenced to jail time for doing us all a favor when you’re not capable of taking down your own signs, so this is just uncalled for.”
State Senator Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Green Valley) originally voted for the bill. After Mendez’s explanation, she changed her vote.
Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) supported the bill. She explained that the district she represents is large, and that a week-long timeline is difficult to adhere to when removing signage.
House Democrats offered similar reasons for opposing the bill during their final vote.
State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe) said that citizens shouldn’t be punished for acting on a desire to remove signs after a week. She berated her colleagues to take more responsibility for their signage, and claimed that this legislation only benefitted politicians.
“We believe in personal responsibility, and we think it is the responsibility of candidates and politicians – including the politicians that sit in this body – to remove their signs in a timely manner,” said Salman.
The legislation was signed into law on Monday, along with four other bills.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.