The Republican Party of Louisiana and Louisiana Democratic Party applauded a recent decision by the City of Covington to forgo enforcing a municipal ordinance that would place unconstitutional restrictions on displaying campaign signs and infringe on citizens’ First Amendment rights.
Covington was one of three local governments with political speech laws the Republican and Democratic State Parties are challenging. The City of Mandeville and St. Tammany Parish are the others. These regulations place restrictions on the size, content, location and time period when political signs may be placed on private property. They also require prior approval of the candidates' sign design by the local government and for fees to be paid to the municipality by the candidate prior placing signs on residents private property.
"At a time when the courts have already diluted the average citizen's political speech rights, these seemingly well-intentioned sign ordinances are a bridge too far," said Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party. "Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, we can all agree that the most basic forms of core political speech, such as placing a yard sign outside your home, should be protected. That's why we're pleased to learn Covington has given up on enforcing their unconstitutional ordinance."
“We’re very happy the City of Covington took the high road and will allow citizens to fully exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Jason Doré, LAGOP executive director. “Political yard signs are a basic part of our nation's Democratic system. The residents of St. Tammany and throughout the state should not have their First Amendment right to display a sign in support of their preferred candidate or cause on their private property infringed. We hope that other municipalities that have similar unconstitutional regulations on the books will follow Covington's lead.”
Scott Sternberg, an attorney from the law firm Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer and professor at Loyola University's school of mass communication, authored the letters on behalf of the state parties challenging the unconsitutional sign ordinances.
“It’s pretty clear that these ordinances violate the First Amendment,” Sternberg said. “They are blatant content-based regulations that place a burden on citizens’ expressing their political preferences on private property. We feel confident that a court would swiftly rule in our favor due to precedent from the United States Supreme Court. It is a testament to the clear unconstitutionality that the Democrats joined the LA GOP in demanding that the ordinances be removed immediately.”
The state parties continue to work together to advance other mutual causes, including reforming campaign finance regulations on state and local political parties.