Judge allows some political signs, but maintains state ban on highway billboards

Supporters of Mike Dunleavy’s campaign for governor wave campaign signs on the Aug. 21 primary 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. A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Monday allowing some political signs. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

A judge’s ruling yesterday resolves a lawsuit about political signs along Alaska highways.

Some temporary political signs will still be allowed. But the state will be able to enforce its ban on signs within the state right of way along highways.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Herman Walker issued a final order on the lawsuit, which was filed in August by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, the group Dunleavy for Alaska and Palmer resident Eric Siebels.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Mike Schechter said both sides agreed to the order.

“The people of the state can absolutely express a preference that their scenic byways not be cluttered with huge billboards,” Schechter said. “And we can accommodate both that preference of the people of Alaska and the constitutional right to allow for the display of small political campaign signs on people’s property.”

Walker’s order allows for small political signs on private property displayed by owners or residents of the property, as long as they’re not being paid for the display. The state will be able to continue to enforce its ban on highway billboards, but it can’t single out political signs for enforcement.

ACLU spokesman Casey Reynolds said the order is a victory for the plaintiffs.

“They can’t do a specific crackdown on political signs,” Reynolds said. “They’ll have to do it in the normal course of cleaning out the right of ways.”

Alaska has banned advertising along highways since it was a territory.