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Sign Removal on Election Day Prompts Change

The city of University City will update its ordinance after candidate signs were removed from a polling place.

An election day complaint has led to a review and eventual update of University City's zoning ordinances.

On April 3, a call to questioned the legality of municipal election candidate signs in the right of way near a polling place. A review of U City's zoning ordinance found this to be a violation and city workers removed the signs.

Within a few hours and some questions by candidates, the signs were allowed to be put back up. 

Signs were only removed at two polling locations.

Councilman Byron Price said in working 30 elections in University City, signs have always been allowed near a polling place on election day.

"This has never, ever been an issue," he said. "How did on that day, in those places, in that time did people think signs could be removed?"

City Manager Lehman Walker agreed the removal of signs broke with precedent and took responsibilty for the actions of city employees who removed the signs.

"I take full responsibility," he said. "Our ordinance is very clear. Political signs are not permitted on city property."

Walker said the issue came up this year because a citizen called in to complain. Walker then reviewed the ordinance with the city's attorney and agreed the signs violated the current code.

He presented a new draft ordinance to be reviewed by the plan commission and voted on by the city council in a future meeting.

"This is the ordinance that this council passed," Councilwoman Lynn Ricci said. "The flaws rest with this dias and not with the city manager. His job is to enforce the laws as written."

Two citizens commented on the sign removal.

"I want to thank Lehman Walker for addressing the political signs on election day issue," Nova Felton told the board. "I am a roving deputy for the board of election and I have never seen signs removed from public places on election day."

Gloria Nickerson April 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
The real truth is that the City removed signs around 8:45AM and did not bring them back until 5:10PM..this is voter suppression...if a City, Church etc. is in agreement with the Board of Elections that their facility is a legitimate Polling location.....municipal codes/ordinance with respect to signage is superceded by Election laws for polling locations. This is only for the day of election. U. City has always had an ordinance about no signage in the city right of way, whether in general and/or on election day. If it is a Polling location the rules don't apply. You can contact the Board of elections for clarification. All parties who had signage at the (2) locations in question, should be sent an apology letter from the City. Drastic action was taken by one citizen complaint, very disturbing
Gloria Nickerson April 11, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I welcome feed back on this.
Jeff Hales April 11, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I think the story here is WHY were these signs removed. There are a number of serious problems with what happened and with the explanation. To clarify the article, the call was apparently made specifically in reference to two polling places, the Community Center & Centennial Commons. 1. No one can seem to recall a time when signs were ever prohibited at the Community Center or Centennial Commons. 2. The City Manager was previously the Director of Community Development at UCity for 11 years; never in his tenure did he enforce this "code violation" on an election day. 3. It created an unmistakable inequality between polling places on election day and consequently discouraged voting. The signs placed at polling places raise awareness to citizens that it is an election day. On election day, for most of the day, the Community Center had no signs did not appear to be a polling place from the street, while all others did. 4. The City Manager is grossly misrepresented the time that signs were prohibited. Signs were prohibited for nearly 8 hours, not a few. 5. The City Manager chose to selectively enforce the City Ordinance just two polling places. Signs were placed on public property in the median on Balson and in the right-of-ways at EVERY polling station. Why?
Jeff Hales April 11, 2012 at 06:27 PM
If there is one principle that is (or should be) fundamental to elections in this country it is equality or fairness. The unilateral actions taken by the City Manager to selectively and improperly enforce a city ordinance at only two of the city's St. Louis County polling places is simply stunning.
Kerry Andrews April 12, 2012 at 05:37 AM
In all honesty, some people don't always remember which building to go in without the signs outside to let them know where it's happening. Does anyone know how it affected turn out, as far as number of registered voters voted?
Gloria Nickerson April 12, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Kerry, I am not sure if that data has been released yet. Most times the elections are certified within (2) weeks. You should be able to find out through the City Clerk or Board of Elections.
Jeff Hales April 12, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I think the story here is WHY were these signs removed. There are a number of serious problems with what happened and with the explanation. To clarify the article, the call was apparently made specifically in reference to two polling places, the Community Center & Centennial Commons. 1. No one can seem to recall a time when signs were ever prohibited at the Community Center or Centennial Commons. 2. The City Manager was previously the Director of Community Development at UCity for 11 years; never in his tenure did he enforce this "code violation" on an election day. 3. It created an unmistakable inequality between polling places on election day and consequently discouraged voting. The signs placed at polling places raise awareness to citizens that it is an election day. On election day, for most of the day, the Community Center had no signs did not appear to be a polling place from the street, while all others did. 4. The City Manager is grossly misrepresented the time that signs were prohibited. Signs were prohibited for nearly 8 hours, not a few. 5. Why did City Manager chose to selectively enforce the City Ordinance at just two polling places. Signs were placed on public property in the median on Balson and in the right-of-ways at EVERY polling station.

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