Campaign sign removal spurs discussion

Senior News Reporter

Photo by: 

In the midst of local primaries, the recent removal of candidates’ signs from campus sparked discussion about Texas State’s electioneering guidelines.

According to guidelines from the Dean of Students Office, individuals are designated locations near polling areas where they may place campaign signs. Signs must be stamped for approval by Campus Activities & Student Organizations employees and be placed at least 100 feet from the outside door of a polling place. Campaign signs may be placed in the LBJ Student Center Mall, the LBJ Student Center Bus Loop and The Quad.

Planet K manager Joe Ptak, who is electioneering for four campaigns, said CASO-approved candidate campaign signs were removed from campus Feb. 19 without warning.  University Police Department officers removed signs that were placed in a “perfectly legal area” in the LBJ bus loop, he said.

“I have (removed) eight signs of (District Attorney candidate) Lynn Peach’s that are clearly stamped by CASO and have the name and phone number of College Republicans on it,” Ptak said.

After the signs were removed, Ptak said he approached CASO employees and UPD officers to discuss the incident. UPD officers said they did not remove any campaign signs from campus, Ptak said.

“I knew that to be false,” Ptak said. “I have eye witnesses who saw them take signs out.”

Ptak said he spoke with UPD Captain Daniel Benitez, showing him a photo of the signs that had been placed in a pile in front of the student center. UPD officers never made an attempt to contact any of the candidates before removing the signs, Ptak said.

“When I showed him (Benitez), he said,  ‘Those signs were put there illegally and we have every right to take them down,’” Ptak said.

Benitez did not return multiple calls for comment.

Ptak arranged a meeting later in the day Feb. 19 with Margarita Arellano, dean of students, and UPD officers to discuss the removal of the campaign signs.

There were campaign signs posted that had no identified owner or location, Arellano said. Signs were placed in the Bobcat Trail area in front of the Undergraduate Academic Center and by the UPD building, she said. The signs on Bobcat Trail were removed.

“I think by mistake, some of the signs in the bus loop were removed,” Arellano said. “But they should have been replaced the day after.”

Jason Montgomery, political science senior, worked with Ptak to ensure his electioneering rights were not infringed upon and that everyone “plays within the scopes of their parameters.”

“(Electioneers are) playing by the rules,” Montgomery said. “If you’re playing by the rules, law enforcement shouldn’t bother you. If they come and bother you, then they’re wrong.”

UPD officers apologized during the meeting with Arellano and said they were wrong in removing the signs, Ptak said.  

“I hope this event between the university and the city can come about with a little more transparency about what they want to be able to sponsor and not sponsor,” Montgomery said. “Making sure that everyone has a fair chance of being a citizen and be heard without having the law come around and snatching up their signs.”