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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Election signage: what candidates can and can’t do

With early voting open until May 5, are candidates and their supporters in violation of existing state statutes?

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C.—It’s election season and corrugated cardboard signs are popping up every day. What’s allowed and what’s not?

RELATED: Here’s what you need to know to vote in the primary

Primary election day is May 8. With early voting open until May 5, are candidates and their
supporters eager to get elected in violation of existing state statutes?

Political signs are permitted on public rights-of-way on state-maintained roads. In New Hanover County, this means major roads owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation including Shipyard Boulevard, Carolina Beach Road, Oleander Drive and more are fair game.

These signs must be three or more feet away from the edge of the road, cannot obscure motorist visibility or another sign according to N.C. General Statute §136-32.

According to New Hanover County’s political sign ordinance, political signs must be 12 square feet or smaller and must be removed within 30 days following the applicable election.


Political signs are not permitted on roads maintained by the city, including Masonboro Loop Road, Greenville Loop and River Road—but you’ll still see political signs in the rights-of-way.

Under North Carolina law, it’s a class three misdemeanor to “steal, deface, vandalize or unlawfully remove a political sign that is lawfully placed.”

In New Hanover County, officials have no plans to remove political signs in public-rights-of-way unless they are directly notified by the NCDOT.

The public rights-of-way in the unincorporated areas of New Hanover County are NCDOT property, and the county does not intend to actively remove political signs unless the DOT request we do so,” Jessica Loeper, the county’s spokesperson, said.

Signs are permitted on private property with the permission of the property owner in New Hanover County. In Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, signs must not exceed 6 square feet. In Wrightsville Beach, political signs must be removed 10 days following the applicable election.

North Carolina only specifies public rights-of-ways and private property in its political sign statues. 

For a full map of city-maintained roads, visit Wilmington’s online map here.

Johanna Ferebee can be reached at or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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