"We certainly don't want to discourage anyone from participating in elections, but this is a public safety issue," said Deb Brucaya with WisDOT's Bureau of Highway Operations. "Improperly placed campaign signs can distract motorists or obstruct their view at an intersection. Also, campaign workers who enter an intersection or highway right-of-way to install a sign place their own safety at risk."
Other than official traffic signs, state law prohibits the placement of all signs, including campaign signs, within state highway right-of-way.
The State Highway System includes all numbered state, federal and interstate highways.
In general, state highway right-of-way in rural areas extends to beyond shoulders, ditches and any adjoining fence line.
In urban areas along the state highway system, signs are prohibited from the roadway area to at least one foot past the sidewalk. In urban areas without sidewalks, signs must be at least 15 feet from the pavement edge.
Signposts, street name marker posts and most utility poles are all within highway right-of-way.
Signs are not allowed within highway medians or roundabouts.
With the landowner's consent, political signs are allowed on private property without a billboard permit as long as the signs do not exceed 32 square feet and contain no flashing lights or moving parts.
Improperly erected political signs are dealt with as part of regular highway maintenance.
A sign that poses a traffic safety hazard will be promptly removed.
Highway crews are asked to make reasonable attempts to preserve campaign signs that are taken down and to provide campaign offices an opportunity to claim the signs.
State law (Section 86.19) provides for a fine from $10 to $100 for signs that violate state law.
Local municipalities may have additional guidelines regulating the placement of political signs along county highways or local roads and streets.
"Our hope is that through public education and cooperation we can keep motorists and campaign volunteers safe," Brucaya said.