Confusion over illegal political signs in Alexandria

Undated photo

Drivers call it an ugly distraction and candidates call it free advertising. Every year, political signs pop up along Virginia’s major roadways, but what you might not know: they’re illegal.

It’s a jurisdictional battle played out along Virginia highways. Political signs on major roads have always been illegal under state law, but every year candidates take advantage of the free advertising.

“They’ve decided it’s a great place to do it… regardless of the law and they’re all doing it,” says Steve Dunton of Alexandria. “There’s just a zillion of them there.”

But there are loopholes. In Alexandria, the city allows politicians the right to post their signs on major roads. Justin Keating bought a city permit to post his signs.

“It may sound cynical, but I’m running to win the election and this is one way to do it,” says Keating, ACPS candidate for School board, District B.

But he’s also risking a $100 fine for each of his signs, according to state law.

“I guess I’ll decide to fight it if I have to, but it’s clearly not in the rules that the city gave me,” he says.

It’s likely he won’t have to. The Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for clearing illegal signs, but they won’t have the manpower to do it.

Meanwhile, drivers are stuck staring at what seems like a crop of political signs each election cycle.

“I think it’s a distraction to driving,” says Jane Picot of Alexandria.

“I think it takes away from the beauty of this road here,” says Dunton.

It’s a legal conflict between city and state that has candidates caught in the middle and drivers cursing the eyesore of election season.