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Shrewsbury Township officials have decided an election sign ordinance might be unconstitutional and are opting not to enforce it.

The township's ordinance, amended to include time limits in 2014, states that residents cannot display election signs more than 30 days prior to an election, and the signs must be removed within seven days after the election.

Ahead of the May 16 primary elections, signs would have been permitted  beginning April 16 in the township, per the ordinance.

Susan Fox, a former township supervisor, said she and several other residents received letters from the township during the past few weeks advising them to take down their signs in accordance with the time restrictions.

Fox took down her lone sign, in support of magisterial district justice candidate Michael Ebersole, because she didn't feel like arguing or facing potential fines.

According to the township's Code of Ordinances, violators of the sign ordinance are subject to a civil penalty up to $600 per violation plus court costs.

Township manager Todd Zeigler said no resident has ever been fined under the election sign time constraints portion of the ordinance.

Fox called the ordinance "absurd" and said it's a "ridiculous waste" of time, energy and resources to send out these letters.

Bill Cox, vice chairman of the township's board of supervisors, said the ordinance was put into place because some residents get a little overzealous with election signs, which are often flimsy and can end up blowing onto township streets.

"Most residents have been cooperative and are happy with the restrictions," he said.

A few residents, however, complained about the rule at a recent township board meeting, and officials determined they should stop enforcing it, Cox said.

The township's solicitor determined, based on several past court rulings, that the time constraints might infringe on First Amendment rights.

Fox said she's since received a separate letter from the township informing her she could put her sign back up, and she did.

Mike Caum, another magisterial district judge candidate, said he felt the board's decision not to enforce the ordinance represented a good resolution.

Caum, Ebersole and fellow candidate Lindy Sweeney had each received letters from the township urging them to let supporters know about the time constraints on election signs.

Caum said he didn't want to push the issue so close to the date signs are allowed to go up, per the ordinance, but he knows it's important that the township uphold the Constitution.

Previously known: An email allegedly sent by Zeigler to township supervisors in 2015 indicates township officials were previously aware of this ordinance's issues.

The email directs supervisors to a news article that indicates the time limit on political signs is unconstitutional and advises that township staff will not be enforcing it.

Cox, listed as one of the recipients, said he doesn't recall receiving that email, but Fox, a supervisor at the time, confirmed that she did.

Zeigler said he sent the email to bring the issue to the board's attention, but they never moved to amend the ordinance.

When the township received a formal complaint recently about election signs going up early, staff had to enforce the ordinance because it was still on the books, Zeigler said.

This was the first time the township had received a formal complaint regarding the time constraints, and Zeigler said staff sent letters to about 30 residents, all of whom have since received letters informing them they could put replace their signs.

Earl Schuckman, another former township supervisor, pointed out the township never appeared to be enforcing the part of the ordinance requiring residents take down election signs within seven days after an election.

He sent The York Dispatch several photos he took around the township displaying Trump/Pence signs on April 4, nearly five months after the presidential election.

Zeigler said one of the letters his staff sent out was regarding a Trump sign.

The ordinance is still on the books in Shrewsbury Township despite the new lack of enforcement, and Cox said he wants to hear feedback from residents as the township considers repealing or amending the rule.

Zeigler said the board will vote on amending the ordinance to remove the time constraints at its May 3 meeting.

The township is still enforcing all other parts of its sign ordinance, including size restrictions and the prohibition of signs in road right-of-ways.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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