Pawtucket suspends ordinance banning political signs 30 days before election after ACLU lawsuit
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) — Pawtucket has suspended an ordinance that bans the posting of political signs more than 30 days before an election after the Rhode Island ACLU filed a lawsuit.
The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of two candidates running in primaries for state legislative office in the city: Cherie Cruz and Jennifer Stewart.
The ACLU argued that “residential signs are a form of unique expression entitled to the highest degree of protection” under the First Amendment.
“Taking the signs down stifled the voice of my supporters and created an obstacle for having a more competitive election,” said Stewart.
Under the ordinance, residents who placed signs in their yards a month before the election faced a fine.
“After conferring with the Interlocal Trust’s attorney, the city has opted to voluntarily suspend the enforcement of the ordinance referenced in the suit which would allow signs to be placed immediately,” said Frank Milos, Pawtucket city solicitor.
According to the suit, the ACLU alerted Pawtucket officials back in 2018 about the “unconstitutional” sign restrictions.
“The only way to stop this recurring violation of free speech rights in the state is for the Court to issue a clear, firm, and definitive ruling that such restrictions will not be tolerated,” said Richard Sinapi, an attorney for the Rhode Island ACLU.
Previously, the ACLU had successfully filed suits against similar ordinances in Cumberland, Warwick, and North Kingstown.