Regulating Political Signs and Speech: Responding to First Amendment and Land Use Challenges

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Thursday, June 21, 2018

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will provide guidance for counsel to local governments on how to lawfully regulate the display of political signs and public employee campaigning on municipal property—without violating federal and state constitutions.


Election season is here. Campaign signs and billboards are flooding every city and town, along with complaints about sign clutter. Local governments must also deal with complaints about public employees campaigning on municipal or county property.

Although political speech is at the core of First Amendment protection, some local regulation of the “time, place and manner” in which political speech occurs is constitutional. The law in this area is notoriously complicated, however, and local governments frequently lose litigation over political and protest signs.

What are the constitutional limits on regulation of political signs? Can political signs be regulated as a distinct class? Must a city allow the signs on public property? Can a political sign be so extreme that its display is a crime? Can public employees campaign on work time or in the workplace?

Listen as our authoritative panel of land use and First Amendment legal specialists explains the regulations that local governments may place upon the display of political signs and upon public employees’ activities—without violating the federal and state constitutions. The panel will also discuss cases where regulations of political signs and employees’ political speech have been ruled unconstitutional and the implications of the Supreme Court’s Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision on this complex area of law.



  1. Regulating political signs
    1. Political signs as a distinct category
    2. Limits on size, height, number and placement
    3. Reed v. Town of Gilbert
    4. Duration rules: limiting the time of display
    5. Post-election removal requirements
    6. Permits, registrations, fees and removal bonds
    7. Mandatory disclosure of sponsorship
    8. Banning signs and electioneering near the polls
  2. Restricting campaign activity by public employees
    1. Garcetti v. Ceballos (U.S. Supreme Court, 2006) (public employee’s free speech rights when speaking in an official capacity)
    2. State or city laws restricting political activity by certain public employees


The panel will review these and other crucial questions:

  • What issues must the municipal attorney consider when determining whether time limits for political signs are lawful?
  • Can local governments impose any content restrictions on political signs and literature?
  • How does current case law address participation by public employees in campaign activities on local government property?
  • Can the political speech rights of public employees, even while off duty and at home, be limited as a term of employment?


Gerli, Elena
Elena Q. Gerli

Aleshire & Wynder

Ms. Gerli has over a decade of experience representing public entities. Her areas of expertise include zoning and land...  |  Read More

Weinstein, Alan
Alan C. Weinstein, JD

Director of Law & Public Policy Program
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University

Mr. Weinstein is a nationally-recognized expert on planning law and lectures frequently on the topic. He has...  |  Read More

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