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What’s your sign?

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Like flowers signaling the arrival of spring, yard signs springing up hither and yon are always a clear indicator that election season is in full bloom. But, according to civil libertarians, some local municipalities are placing unconstitutional restrictions on these expressions of support and opposition.

The ACLU is trying to bring that to a halt. Officials in 10 Oakland County communities will be put on notice this week that they need to change their sign ordinances, or else.

Elsa Shartsis of the Oakland County branch of the ACLU of Michigan says she hopes that the “or else” part doesn’t come into play.

“My general take on this is that maybe a word to the wise will be sufficient,” says Shartsis. “We don’t want to turn this into a court case that will be expensive and time-consuming.”

Although the problem ordinances vary from community to community, they follow a general pattern, says Shartsis. Singling out political signs and limiting their size and number is a definite no-no, says Shartsis.

“The general rule on political speech is that restrictions can’t be any harsher than restrictions on other kinds of speech,” Shartsis explains. “You can’t force people to have a little tiny sign in their yard when the bar down the street has a great big sign. The law has to apply evenly to any kind of sign.”

Set to receive letters are the towns of Ferndale, Novi, Oak Park, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, South Lyon, Southfield, Troy and Waterford.

“We’re going into election season,” explains Shartsis. “It is important to get some of this taken care of.”

We’ll keep you posted.

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