One of the big expenses for political candidates in Oklahoma is one that unfortunately also costs taxpayers money. The illegal placement of campaign materials along state highways is considered littering by state law.
While spots along highways, interstates or even along bridges and overpasses may seem like an ideal place to advertise for a candidate or cause, state law prohibits any materials being placed in highway rights-of-way because they are a safety hazard for motorists and highway workers.
As the June 26 primary election date nears, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation urges campaign staff to comply with state law and keep their signs out of these areas. Ignoring the law also causes dangers for campaign volunteers who try to place them along high-speed corridors or on bridges.
When signs are illegally placed, ODOT crews spend time away from other highway maintenance operations to pick up each sign, which can be time-consuming and also place workers in dangerous situations next to traffic. While the department has seen slight improvement in recent years, it remains that taxpayers are ultimately footing the bill for cleanup cost, which come out of highway maintenance funds. Each year, more than $5 million is spent by the department to pick up trash along Oklahoma highways, which includes illegally placed signs. That’s in addition to what volunteer groups along with county and municipal governments spend in time and money to keep Oklahoma clean.
One solution is for candidates to place signs on private property with the landowner’s permission. Within city limits, candidates should check local ordinances for questions regarding municipally maintained rights of way. However, even within city limits, signs are prohibited on state-maintained highways, overpasses and bridges.