Twenty-four hours after the last votes were cast, remnants of Election Day still remained at some Montgomery County polling places.
Esther Wells, a Board of Education District 1 candidate, expressed her frustration on Twitter Wednesday night after seeing campaign signs still up at local schools that served as polling places on Election Day.
“Call to action: can everyone please work to remove all the campaign signs left around the county? Specifically at our local schools? Our students deserve to attend a school free of litter. Has the deadline passed? I’m happy to remove the ones near my home,” Wells tweeted.
Wells told Bethesda Beat she saw signs at Resnik Elementary School and Montgomery Village Middle School Wednesday night. She and her son spent some time picking them up that evening, as Wells was concerned nobody was going to come clean them up.
“We need to make sure our schools are presentable and our students and staff feel proud that this is where they come to work, and this is where they come to learn. I just thought that was very inconsiderate [for the signs to still be up],” Wells said.
Montgomery County Board of Elections secretary David Naimon said candidates are expected to remove signs themselves, but the Board of Elections is not responsible for removing them and does not have the authority to issue fines to candidates.
The Board of Elections does have the authority to designate when and where signs are allowed to be placed at the polls. Candidates and their staffers also may not use banners, balloons, inflatables, flag banners, or any signs activated by the wind at voting centers.
Wells provided Bethesda Beat with a candidate’s information packet that she was given when she applied to run for office. The packet includes information from the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services, which states signs must be removed “immediately upon closure of the polls.”
It also includes information from the Montgomery County Board of Elections, which says that campaign signs may be placed on the premises of polling places beginning at 5 p.m. the day immediately preceding Election Day until 8 a.m. on the day immediately following Election Day.
The notice from the Board of Elections also states that campaign signs may be placed on the premises of early voting centers beginning at 5 p.m. the day immediately preceding the day that early voting begins and may remain until 8 a.m. on the day immediately following the day that early voting ends.
Wells said because of this information packet, she felt that she and other candidates were well informed as to the rules for campaign signs.
“I prepared my volunteers and told them ‘Wherever you put your sites, please pick them up right after the election, because we want to take care of our community,’” Wells said.
Naimon said sometimes the Board of Elections will partner with the county to remove the signs that are left days after an election, but it isn’t the responsibility of the board.
Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting Services conducted a “sign sweep” in August to remove illegally placed signs, including campaign signs posted for the July 19 primary election, throughout the county.
The department removed signs placed in public rights-of-way on county-maintained roads and at intersections with state highways, but not from private property.
County law prohibits placing political signs in road medians, near sidewalks and in other public rights-of-way. Candidates and their staffers also may not use banners, balloons, inflatables, flag banners, or any signs activated by the wind at voting centers. Non-compliance can result in a $500 civil citation for each sign in violation and removal of illegal signs in the public right-of-way, according to the county permitting services department. The candidate and sign installer can be held jointly responsible for compliance with sign regulations.
Wells said she and her son plan to visit other schools around the county and remove the signs left there.
“Let’s be respectful and courteous and considerate so that when [students and faculty] return to their school, it’s the same way that we found it,” Wells said.