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Senate passes bill that protects political signs

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Arizona lawmakers voted to close a loophole in state law that protects campaign signs for candidates, but not signs for ballot measures or other issues-based campaigns.

A bill sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, makes altering, damaging or removing a political sign during campaign season a Class 2 misdemeanor. That same penalty is already in statute, but it only applies to signs posted for “any candidate for public office.”

That left no protection in Arizona’s election laws for signs urging voters to support or oppose the myriad of initiatives on ballot measures in the General Election every two years. The state’s former elections director, Eric Spencer, said last year that there’s nothing that the Secretary of State’s Office could do under law to aid a campaign struggling with signs that are sliced, tagged with graffiti or simply stolen.

State senators and representatives voted unanimously for Kavanagh’s HB 2023, which if signed by Gov. Doug Ducey will grant issue-based campaigns the same protections afforded to candidates under state law.

The bill also made on exception for campaign signs posted by candidates. If a candidate loses in the primary election, and fails to remove their signs from yards and right-of-ways within seven days after the election, it’s no longer a crime to deface or remove the sign.

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