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July 10, 2014

Salem seeks to stop illegal campaigning

Salem enforces sign, electioneering rules

SALEM — It’s only July and 90 degrees, but town officials want to crack down on inappropriate campaigning well before elections this fall.

That means removing illegally placed candidate signs and telling political hopefuls they can’t deliver campaign speeches on town property or during public meetings.

More than two months before the state primary Sept. 9, political signs have turned up in town rights-of-way, where they are not allowed, Town Manager Keith Hickey said yesterday.

It’s led to a couple of calls to Town Hall from residents concerned about candidates not following the law, he said.

The town posted notices on its website Tuesday to inform candidates what they can and cannot do, Hickey said.

Public works crews are directed to remove any illegally placed signs. Hickey said he has even found himself pulling up the signs, which become a serious a problem every election season.

Town officials have been particularly concerned in the past about political signs placed in medians or attached to road signs, distracting drivers and presenting a potential hazard.

“It’s an ongoing, everyday problem,” Hickey said.

Political signs are allowed on private property as long the candidate receives the landowner’s permission, he said.

Selectmen also announced this week they will adopt a tougher policy that clearly defines the rules for campaigning to avoid situations where candidates are using town property to deliver political messages to the public.

The decision comes after a Rockingham County attorney candidate, Michael DiCroce, asked selectmen for permission to address the board at one of their meetings.

Salem selectmen have prohibited candidates from speaking to them at public meetings, saying it’s an inappropriate forum to deliver a political message.

Hickey said yesterday he called DiCroce to tell him he would not be allowed to speak.

A similar situation occurred last week at a Town Council meeting in Derry, where another county attorney candidate, Patricia Conway, was told she could not distribute political fliers or campaign because it would be in violation of the town’s electioneering policy.

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