If your homeowners association says you can’t put campaign signs in your yard, you can now say ‘no’ to them.
The General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that homeowners associations cannot prohibit political signs. However, it seems that not everyone knows about the new rules.
Audrey Shah, a supporter of 50th district Democratic candidate Michela Skelton, had a sign in the yard. She was told in a note from a neighbor left in her mailbox that it wasn’t allowed.
Skelton said it is not the only complaint she’s received. She also got a call from a woman, who didn’t identify herself, telling her that Skelton was breaking down civility in their neighborhood by giving signs to the supporters to put in their yards.
“I tried to tell her that a state law was passed that allows political signs in the yards,” said Skelton, “but she was so very upset.”
Leaving a note and calling candidates is very polite compared with some other behaviors. Multiple candidates reported having their signs vandalized or stolen.
Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, said it’s unfortunate that this kind of thing happens every campaign.
Walsh, who faces Skelton in the Nov. 6 election, had one of her large 4x8-foot signs sliced up into tiny slivers, and she said some of her supporters had the small signs vandalized or taken from their yards.
Marc Gagne is a campaign volunteer of Renee Hoagenson, Democratic candidate for Congress. He and his neighbors who live in Cass County filed nine police reports for damage and loss of their campaign signs.
“The thing about this is all the Republican signs are unscathed after each incident, and it’s happening on private property,” he said.
Gagne said the first incident happened before the August primary. At that point, he hadn’t filed a police report and reached out to Republican U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler’s campaign team to ask them to make a statement that this type of behavior would not be tolerated.
He said Hartzler’s campaign manager responded that they had been receiving similar reports about their signs. Gagne said that’s when he and his neighbors decided to start filing police reports for every incident.
“It’s just childish. It’s cowardly because all these incidents were happening in the dead of night,” Gagne added, “The one that happened at my house angered me because they had to come into the middle of my yard and were about 25 feet from where my grandchildren sleep.”
The sheriff’s department and police department took the reports, but they failed to identify the perpetrator, Gagne said.
Sandy Davidson, a law professor at MU, said damaging others’ campaign signs could involve breaking several laws.
“Any time anybody trespasses onto your property to damage any of your property,” Davidson said, “whether it’s a sign, or your bicycle, the dog — that’s a criminal offense.”
In addition, stealing or willfully defacing, mutilating, or destroying any campaign yard sign on private property is a class four election offense, which shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than one year or by a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars or both, according to Missouri statute.
As for the law about homeowners associations, Davidson said the Supreme Court has spoken on why the government can’t restrict residential signs back to 1994. This law is an extension of that, in a way.
“This extension would say nor can private contracts restrict a person from exercising a very fundamental right,” Davidson said.
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