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Bill Johnson for Alaska House

Watchdog group takes aim at Alaska's stance on campaign signs on roads

ACLU files lawsuit to block enforcement of voter-approved ban it says is unconstitutional

 

August 28, 2018



ANCHORAGE: The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has filed a lawsuit in response to a recent crackdown of campaign signs.

An independent expenditure group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy and Alaska resident Eric Siebels are also plaintiffs in case, the Anchorage Daily news reported.

The ACLU seeks to block the enforcement of a state statute that prohibits signs near state roadways. The organization said in a statement it wants those rules to be struck down as unconstitutional.

The state of Alaska and the Alaska Transportation Department are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit comes a month after the Transportation Department seized more than two dozen political signs in Anchorage that agency officials said were illegally placed along state roads.

A state statute cited in the lawsuit says outdoor advertising "may not be erected or maintained within 660 feet (200 meters) of the nearest edge of the right-of-way and visible from the main-traveled way of the interstate, primary or secondary highways" in Alaska.

Photo courtesy Rachel San Diego

Blight or a right? The ACLU has filed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of a ban on advertising – including icampaign signs – along Alaska highways.

The lawsuit argues the department's recent actions specifically targeted political speech.

"We, along with our supporters who are absolutely outraged by this, we just want to ensure that everyone has their right to free speech protected," said Terre Gales, chair of the independent expenditure group in the case, Dunleavy for Alaska. "And that's regardless of who they support."

The agency reaches out to campaigns each year to educate them on Alaska's laws, and campaigns are given notice before their signs are removed unless the signs pose a safety hazard and must be removed immediately, said Meadow Bailey, Transportation Department spokeswoman.

As of Thursday afternoon, the state had not been served with the lawsuit, said Cori Mills, assistant attorney general for the Alaska Department of Law.

 

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