Cleveland – The ACLU of Ohio is investigating a violation of Willowick residents’ free speech rights. The ACLU was contacted by a Willowick resident whose political sign was removed from the resident’s yard because it violated the city ordinance regarding political signs within the Willowick city limits.
The City of Willowick requires residents to remit a deposit of one hundred dollars ($100) before any political sign can be displayed. This scheme is blatantly and demonstrably unconstitutional, and the ACLU hopes that the City of Willowick will conclude this practice immediately.
The ACLU has battled against local governments for forty years over the fundamental right of political speech. Local governments frequently try to regulate the use of signs for political speech during election season for various reasons that are not legitimate, from their aesthetic impact on neighborhoods to political reasons.
Cities are allowed to place some reasonable restrictions on the time, manner and place that political signs are displayed. However, the courts have struck down many such limitations as unacceptable encroachments on free speech rights.
According to staff member Erin Reiffer, “the City of Willowick has clearly overstepped its bounds in regulating the use of signs. This permit scheme is patently unconstitutional, and should not be allowed to continue.”
The ACLU has contacted the City of Willowick with its First Amendment concerns, and has urged it to permanently change its sign ordinance to comply with constitutional standards in a timely fashion.