Wyoming Liberty Group
Teton County Must Respect Free Speech
Free political speech is a fundamental individual liberty and American constitutional right. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court said in Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Cent. Committee, “The First Amendment has its fullest and must urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.” In other words, the constitution’s free speech guarantee exists in order to protect the individual right to speak out about candidates who are actively running for political office. No other type of speech is more important to maintaining a government that is beholden to the people. Political signs in residential areas are an essential tool of political communication. The U.S. Supreme Court also said that there is no practical substitute or alternative to political yard or window signs.
In other words, by law, no type of speech is more protected by the constitution than political speech during the course of a political election and, by law, there is no alternative to political yard signs to accomplish the kind of protected speech that those yard signs accomplish.
Despite these clear statements of law, Teton County, Wyoming still tries to silence political speech during election season by prohibiting political yard signs more than 30 days before an election without a sign permit. By the county’s logic, people should not be allowed to express support or opposition to candidates actively campaigning during the months of August and September. Teton County maintains this position despite multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions rejecting local government attempts to censor political speech using local sign regulations. As recently as 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments cannot categorize signs based on their message and use time limits on certain sign categories that render the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee meaningless.
Because transparency in government cannot be separated from maintaining individual freedom, Wyoming Liberty Group’s legal center sent the following letter to Teton County’s Board of Commissioners demanding that Teton County repeal the Land Development Regulation that tries to silence political speech in the form of yard signs without a permit. There is no room under our law for a local government to require residents to remove political signs in advance of an election solely based on the fact that the sign contains a political message advocating for a candidate on the upcoming ballot.