Hamilton votes: 5 facts to know about election signs

Hamilton will soon be covered with brightly coloured election signs. Candidates are already filing complaints against each other. Here are five facts to know about election signs.

Complaints have already been raised about signs posted too early

Candidates have to wait until Sept. 29 to display election signs unless they're part of a campaign office, the city says. People are already filing complaints about each other. (Matt Jelly)

The municipal election is Oct. 27, which means election sign season is coming.

In the coming weeks, the city will be blanketed with hundreds of signs, said Al Fletcher, manager of licensing inspections and enforcement. Election signs are governed by the city’s sign bylaw section 5.9.

Here are five things to know about election signs:

1. They can’t be displayed until Sept. 29.

Signs are forbidden until 28 days prior to voting day, unless they’re attached to a campaign office. They must be “on a building or a portion of the building where the candidate maintains a campaign office,” Fletcher said. This is in part so signs don’t stay out indefinitely and become unsightly. The time limit is the same as provincial and federal regulations, he said. It does not include billboards.

2. They have to be on private property.

That means no road allowances or city parks.

3. The city’s sign bylaw doesn’t govern what’s on them.

There’s nothing outlining what can and can’t go on an election sign, Fletcher said. If an election sign was indecent, that would likely become a police matter.

4. It’s reinforced on a complaint basis.

The city doesn’t have enough staff to police every election sign, Fletcher said. So it mainly responds on “a reactive basis.” Usually a member of the public complains. The city will contact the candidate’s campaign headquarters, “educate them” about the sign bylaw and ask him or her to remove the sign, he said. If the candidate removes the sign, the city closes the case. If the candidate doesn’t, the city can fine the candidate $250.

5. There have already been complaints.

Mayoral candidate Brian McHattie was the first to publicly bring up the election sign rule, saying signs for opponent Brad Clark on a front lawn near the Winona Peach Festival were illegal. Clark said the home was a temporary headquarters during the festival. Clark's campaign also provided photos of McHattie signs hanging in the windows of homes in Ward 1.

A member of the public complained about signs posted by Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster during the Ancaster Fair this week. Ferguson has no campaign headquarters, Fletcher said, and is using a tent at the Ancaster Fair, which makes the signs legal. But challenger John Iachelli wasn’t happy about it. “I look to the city to address this item,” he said.

The city has gotten about three complaints so far regarding election signs in general, Fletcher said. While he’s expecting more, “I’m hoping for a quiet election time.”