Suit Filed Against State of Alaska for Unconstitutional Crackdown on Political Speech
August 24, 2018
Alaska Statute 19.25.105 prohibits “outdoor advertising” on or within 660 feet of state rights-of-way for interstate, primary, and secondary highways within Alaska. This statute effectively prohibits thousands of Alaskans from displaying political speech anywhere on their own property.
Using this statute as justification, on July 10, 2018 the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) sent a notice to Dunleavy for Alaska threatening financial and criminal sanctions for posting political signs within the view of certain roadways. According to multiple media reports quoting DOT officials, this was part of a planned “sweep” of signs near roadways. Quoting the ACLU news release, photo evidence clearly shows this sweep specifically targeted political signs while leaving adjacent non-political signs untouched.
One of those articles published by the Anchorage Daily News includes statements from DOT spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy that of the 200 to 250 political signs tagged for removal in Anchorage as part of this sweep, only “about 50” posed “immediate safety concerns.” According to the ACUL, this statement makes it clear the overwhelming majority of the removed signs posed little or no risk to the public.
“There is no right more fundamental to a democracy than the right of an individual to express their personal political views,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua A. Decker. “That is why the U.S. Supreme Court has afforded political speech special protection. If the government wants to seize that right by barring Alaskans from displaying political signs on their own property, they need a more compelling reason than ‘because somebody might see it.’”
“We have been blown away by Alaskans’ passionate response to our signs. Everyone seems to want one,” said Dunleavy for Alaska Chairman Terre Gales. “We have taken a lot of pride in designing colorful and attractive signs that Alaskans will enjoy. For the state to step in and say you can’t put up that sign because it says ‘Dunleavy’ but can keep the sign next to it that says ‘Veggies for sale’ just seems arbitrary. It makes you wonder why it is really being done.”
Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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