Over the objections of citizens who urged them not to restrict their 1st Amendment Rights and to avoid expensive litigation, the Marlboro Township Council unanimously passed an ordinance that prohibits the placement of temporary political signs on public property and rights of way, limits the time before and after an election that signs may appear on private property and rights of way adjacent to private property, and regulates the size of signs and the distance they may appear from each other on private property.
At the request of Councilman Frank LaRocca, the ordinance was amended to eliminate the imposition of a 90 day jail sentence for violating the ordinance. Candidates, Committee Chairmen, Campaign Treasurers and private property owners now face fines ranging from $100 to $1250 if signs appear more than 45 days before an election, 7 days after an election or if signs promoting the same candidate are posted within 50 feet of each other on the same property. The total square footage of all political signs on any one tax lot must not exceed 16 square feet.
Matthew Rasmussen, an attorney representing the Marlboro Republican Committee told the council during the public hearing prior to the adoption of the ordinance that it contained numerous “constitutional infirmities, some of them fatal” and urged the governing body to defeat the ordinance in order to avoid expensive litigation that they would certainly lose.
A proposed Marlboro temporary sign ordinance on the agenda for adoption by the Township Council on Thursday evening July 17 has Marlboro Republicans contemplating a federal court challenge should the all Democratic Council enact the measure.
Mayor Jon Hornik, named the best mayor in New Jersey in an unscientific PolitickerNJ poll earlier this month after the Township’s resident email list was used to rally online votes, told MMM that political signs create clutter and traffic safety issues in the Township and that his administration has been working on an solution that protects free speech rights while improving public safety since 2008. “It’s not just local races, but every level…county, state, and federal. Marlboro gets littered with campaign signs every fall,” Hornik said, “It is a safety issue that has gotten worse since the Board of Education elections were moved to November. The council has been working hard to make sure the safety and clutter issues are addressed while at the same time protecting free speech rights. I will support what they come up with.”
The proposed ordinance, which can be found here, would prohibit temporary political signs on Township property and public rights of way, with the exception of rights of way adjacent to private property (that strip of land between sidewalks and curbs), regulate the size of signs to 16 square feet, and allow signs to be placed on private property only 45 days prior to an election or event and seven days after an election. Candidates, Committee Chairmen, Campaign Treasurers and private property owners with signs on rights of way adjacent to their property would be subject to fines ranging from$100 to $1250 and/or 90 days in jail for violations.