My Platform – Part 9: Yard Signs

When I started this process, I talked to a few people about how to run and what to do during my campaign. One of the stances I thought I would take is that I would not use yard signs. I’ve always thought they can end up a blight in neighborhoods and at street corners. I understand the need for them on some level. There’s a need to get your name out there to the voters and yard signs are an efficient way of doing that. And they’re not that expensive it turns out. But, I still thought it would be a good line to draw. No yard signs.

Except, I’m especially in need of getting my name out there. I’m new to all of this. And the fact that I’m trying to do my campaign differently, I don’t really have many options for increasing my name ID. So I’ve decided to do yard signs.

But, if I’m going to do yard signs, I’m going to do to try to do it the right way. It’s the lawyer in me I guess, but I figured I need to start with the idea that my signage has to comply with the Knox County rules. Code of Knox County, Tennessee, Appendix A, Zoning – Section 3.90.2(H)(6) allows temporary signs advertising a political candidate to be erected without securing a building permit. It says that such signs “shall not be over thirty-two (32) square feet in size, shall not be displayed for more than thirty (30) days and shall be removed within five (5) days of the election.”

If you drive around Knox County, you’re seeing a lot of political signs popping up all over the place. Many are in yards, but a lot of the signs seem to be in the neutral zones at street corners or intersections.

We have a Presidential preference and County primary election on March 3, 2020. For the winners of the County primary election, there is a County general election, which coincides with the state and federal primary election on August 6, 2020. Then there is a federal and state general election on November 3, 2020. If I’m reading the regulation correctly, it seems like signs could start going up around February 1, 2020 and then would have to come down by March 8, 2020.

While these rules would apply to all of the races, I’m most concerned with the County primary and general. In Knox County, there are three races where the winner of a March 3, 2020 primary election will go on to have a competitive general election race. The other County races either don’t have a primary opponent before having a competitive general race (District 2 where my friend Courtney Durrett is running) or the primary race is competitive, but there is no opponent waiting in the general.

There are three races where there is a competitive primary race and then the winner of the primary will face an opponent in the general. District 1 has two Democrats facing off in a primary and then the winner takes on an independent candidate in the general. District 4 (mine) and District 5 (where my friend Kimberly Peterson is running) have competitive Republican primaries and then we Democrats will face the winner in the general.

So, take my race as an example. The candidates can have been putting up yard signs since about February 1, 2020 and then should taken them down by about March 8, 2020. Then, whichever Republican candidate wins the primary, they should be able to start putting up signs again around July 6, 2020. But will the winning Republican in my race and the winners in the other primary races take down their signs around March 8, 2020? If anyone does take their signs down in compliance with the rules, are they giving their opponents a competitive advantage in their races?

Another thing I think about with my yard signs is where I can put them. I already mentioned that many of the signs going up now are at street corners and near intersections. As long as your signs don’t obstruct, it appears they can go in these locations. But will they stay there past March 8, 2020? It seems more objectionable to try and keep your political signs up in these locations for the 6 months from when they can start going up in February to the general election in August, as opposed to putting them in the yards of people who have affirmatively consented to their placement.

So, Mr. Candidate, what are you actually going to do with your yard signs? I’ve decided that I still need to put up yard signs, despite the limits placed on us by the Code of Knox County. Since I don’t have a primary opponent on March 3, 2020, I’m not going to try and match the Republicans in my race in placing signs in all of the public locations that I’ve seen their signs. I’m going to focus trying to get supporters to place signs in their yards. After March 8, 2020, I will monitor the situation with yard signs in Knox County and consider how that will affect my yard sign placement until the general election. I hope all of the candidates in all of the races will work to keep their yard signs from being a public nuisance and comply with the spirit and the letter of the law.

Published by Todd Frommeyer for Knox County Commission

Retired Air Force JAG, former Navy Russian linguist, former consumer financial regulator, political junkie

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