June 25, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Macomb Twp. law limiting campaign signs called unconstitutional

A civil rights group is challenging Macomb Township’s recently passed ordinance that limits when homeowners can display election signs, saying it violates first amendment rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in a letter Wednesday urged the township to repeal its ordinance that bars residents from placing political signs on their property more than 30 days before an election. The law also requires signs be removed within seven days of an election.

“You can’t have a law that is more restrictive of political speech or political signs than it is on other types of speech or other types of signs,” said Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director for the ACLU.

The Macomb Township Board of Trustees adopted the ordinance Feb. 12. In an email Wednesday evening, township Attorney Lawrence Scott said he plans to review the letter and discuss it with Supervisor Janet Dunn.

Korobkin said they’ve asked the township to repeal the ordinance by July 10. If the township doesn’t comply, going to court could be an option, he said.

“Hopefully the township wasn’t aware of this area of the law,” he said. “Once they see the letter they will understand they need to make some changes.”

In its letter Wednesday, the ALCU cites two Michigan cases in which federal courts struck down ordinances that restrict how early political signs can be displayed.

■In 2006, a court found the city of Troy’s ordinance prohibiting political signs from being displayed more than 30 days before an election violated the First Amendment.

■In 1996, a court made the same ruling regarding the city of Warren’s ordinance barring the display of political signs more than 45 days before an election.

Most cases don’t make it to court because municipalities change their ordinances, Korobkin said.

“If we were to go to court this wouldn’t be a controversial or difficult case for the court to address,” he said. “The law is the law.”

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