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SC political candidates need to pick up their road signs. They could be breaking the law.

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Political Signs

A number of Gov. Henry McMaster's election campaign signs still remain at the exit from Interstate 26 onto Meeting Street in downtown Charleston. Charleston County has an ordinance that all political signs are to be removed within 15 days of election day. Brad Nettles/Staff

Candidates who a month ago clamored for your vote by bombarding your commute with campaign signs could be breaking the law if they haven't picked up their signs by now.

Around Charleston County, some straggler signs still stand. The once proud political posts have now become rain-soaked reminders of who won and who lost on Nov. 6.

But now, one month after Election Day, these freestanding political messages could be breaking the rules.

Whether the signs are in trouble or are just plain troublesome depends on that age-old real estate adage: Location, location, location.

South Carolina election law does not dictate when political signs must be removed after the vote. 

"The only thing we have in regard to campaign signs is how close signs can be to a polling place, and that's only on Election Day," Charleston County Elections Director Joe Debney said of state elections law.

"Prior to that, after that, we don't have any responsibility for the campaign signs," he said.

Instead, it is up to the counties and municipalities to determine when such signs should be gone. 

In Charleston and Berkeley counties, ordinances state campaign signs must be removed within 15 days after an election.  Dorchester County's zoning standards stipulate political signs must be removed within a week after the election in which the candidate ran.

But in the city of Charleston, there is nothing in city code that spells out when political signs must be gone.

What the city does have is a ban.

"In the city, we don't allow political signs in right-of-ways at all," said city spokeswoman Cameron Wolfsen. "Our traffic and transportation crews will pick them up when they see them or when citizens call."

So far, Wolfsen said, the city has received one phone call from a city resident in the last week regarding a pair of signs on Wappoo Road in West Ashley.

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Mount Pleasant hasn't had any calls about removing campaign signs since the election ended, according to town spokeswoman Martine Wolfe.

Like the city of Charleston, campaign signs in Mount Pleasant cannot be posted in right-of-ways in incorporated areas of the town. Wolfe said during the election season that a Mount Pleasant code enforcement officer was tasked with removing signs that violate the town's sign ordinance.

"During that time, we received between five to 10 phone calls each day from campaigns asking where their signs were," she said.

A smattering of signs can still be spotted around Charleston County.

A cluster of rain-soaked signs for Gov. Henry McMaster greets motorists after they take the Interstate 26 exit for Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.

At least one sign for incoming Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham is easily spotted on the Septima P. Clark Parkway. Another can be seen on Savannah Highway.

Cunningham campaign spokesman Tyler Jones said there's a reason why so many of their signs are still up.

"We had over 10,000 campaign signs. When volunteers would come into the office to pick up signs to put them out, we don't know exactly where they all ended up," Jones said. 

Jones said the campaign has been trying to pick up signs whenever they see them and have asked volunteers to do the same.

"I would say 99 percent of our signs are picked up at this point, but when you have so many signs over a large district it's not as easy as people think," he said.

McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg said staffers and volunteers associated with the South Carolina Republican Party's victory office were responsible for sign distribution in the Charleston area.

She said she planned to reach out to find out more about the sign pickup efforts.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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