Judge orders that some political signs can remain for now — but not all

Supporters of Mike Dunleavy’s campaign for governor wave campaign signs on Aug. 21, primary day, in Juneau. The group Dunleavy for Alaska, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and Eric Seibles sued over state enforcement of a ban on outdoor advertising in July in Southcentral Alaska. A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Monday allowing some political signs. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

Some campaign signs on private property along Alaska’s highways can be displayed — at least for now. A judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday, stopping the state from removing signs outside the state’s right of way.

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But Superior Court Judge Herman Walker’s order allows the state to continue to enforce the ban within the state’s right of way, as long as the state treats political and commercial signs the same.

Assistant Attorney General Mike Schechter said the order allows the state to protect public safety.

“The judge’s order does essentially what the state requested,” he said, “Which is make clear that folks are allowed to place small, temporary political campaign signs on their private property, and allows the state to continue enforcing restrictions on signage within the right of way.”

Signs were removed under a highway billboard ban in existence since before statehood.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, the campaign group Dunleavy for Alaska and Palmer resident Eric Seibles had sued the state Department of Transportation for removing them in July.

ACLU spokesman Casey Reynolds said he was pleased.

“The judge sided with us on about 85 percent of the territory that’s in dispute and is going to issue a separate order on the remainder in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

The ACLU said its intent was not to lift the ban on commercial billboards, but the lawsuit does challenge the ban’s constitutionality.

The judge indicated a second order with further guidance on enforcing the ban is forthcoming.