Political Signs and Candidate Visits – Be Aware of State Law

The countdown begins for the 2024 elections.  During this time, homeowners and community associations should be familiar with two state statutes that impact homeowner ability to display political signs and when a political candidate may enter a community association to campaign.

Political Signs

Minnesota Statutes Section 211B.045 identifies when noncommercial signs may be posted during an election year:

All noncommercial signs of any size may be posted in any number beginning 46 days before the state primary in a state general election year until ten days following the state general election. Municipal ordinances may regulate the size and number of noncommercial signs at other times.

(Emphasis added). The Minnesota state primary will take place on August 13, 2024, and the Minnesota state election will take place on November 5, 2024. Therefore, signs may be posted from June 28, 2024, to November 15, 2024, for the 2024 election season.

One interpretation of this statute is that this Section 211B.045 applies only to municipal regulation of political signs and therefore, associations may restrict or prohibit the posting of political signs, at any time, based on the terms of the association’s governing documents. Given the ambiguity of the statute, an association could, therefore, take the good-faith position that the statute does not apply to an association’s intent to regulate political signs during an election year—so the association may regulate the signs.

However, there may be association members who feel strongly about the right to post political signs.  They may argue—quite passionately, sometimes—that Section 211B.045 does apply to an association’s attempts to regulate the size or number of political signs displayed by homeowners. They may also argue that they have the right, under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, to display political signs.  While the First Amendment is not applicable to regulations by non-governmental entities like homeowners associations, associations may nonetheless want to weigh the benefits of the regulations against the potential discord that may result from efforts to restrict homeowner’s political signage.

What is clear is that there is no right to post signs on neighboring property. An association may regulate the posting of political signs on common areas.

An association cannot, however, simply prohibit signage in areas the association maintains.  Some of those areas, such as yard areas of townhomes, may lie within the boundaries of a Unit and are thus owned by the homeowner.  However, if an association chooses to allow political signs to be posted during election season, and the posting of the signs results in additional maintenance costs (for example, if the signs have to be removed and replaced in order to mow lawns), the association may be able to assess those additional costs to the owner posting the signs.

Since an association’s ability to impose sign regulations and assess charges depends on the terms of the association’s governing documents.  Before a board adopts sign regulations or assesses additional charges, it should consult with the association’s legal counsel.

Candidate Visits

Minnesota Statutes Section 211B.20 addresses when and how political candidates may enter an association:

It is unlawful for a person, either directly or indirectly, to deny access to . . . [a] multiple unit facility used as a residence, or an area in which two or more single-family dwellings are located on private roadways to a candidate who has (1) organized a campaign committee under applicable federal or state law; (2) filed a financial report as required by Minnesota Statutes Section 211A.02; or (3) filed an affidavit of candidacy for elected office. A candidate granted access under this section must be allowed to be accompanied by campaign volunteers.

(Emphasis added.)

However, candidates are not entitled to unfettered access wherever they wish. Under Section 211B.20, the candidate must be granted access:

  1. only if the facility or area is within the district or territory that will be represented by the office to which the candidate seeks election;
  2. if the candidate and any accompanying campaign volunteers seek access exclusively for the purpose of campaigning for a candidate or registering voters; and
  3. if the candidate is seeking election to office at the next general or special election to be held for that office.

If the candidate meets these criteria, then the association must allow access to the candidate and any accompanying campaign volunteers.  The association must allow the candidate and volunteers

  • to knock on the doors of individual units to speak with residents, and
  • to leave campaign materials for residents at their doors. The campaign materials must be left in an orderly manner.

 

If the community includes multiple buildings, a candidate and accompanying volunteers must be permitted to access more than one building on a single visit, but access is limited to only one building at a time.  If multiple candidates are traveling together, each candidate and that candidate’s accompanying volunteers is limited to access one building at a time, but all of the candidates and accompanying volunteers traveling together cannot be restricted to accessing the same building at the same time.

Thus, candidates who seek entry to an apartment-style condominium or cooperative, or a single family or townhome community accessed via private roads must be allowed into the community if they meet the criteria of Section 211B.20.  The association can require reasonable and proper identification, and can limit the hours or number of persons accompanying the candidate. While the association is required to permit a candidate entrance into a building or community,  homeowners have no obligation to allow a candidate entry into his or her home.

Please Note: The information in this article is provided solely as general information and not as legal advice. Neither receiving nor implementing this information establishes an attorney-client relationship. Readers are urged to speak with a qualified attorney focusing on community association law when making decisions regarding a specific legal issue.