Fighting for the First Amendment in the Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Campaign signs are a normal part of the landscape during an election year.

As of last week, they could get you in trouble in some California cities with ordinances restricting the dates you are allowed to have them in your yard.

"Many of these ordinances are misdemeanors which means someone is subject to going to jail for putting out a political idea," said Maggie Melo.

She has sued a couple cities over campaign sign ordinances, calling them a restriction of first amendment-protected political free speech.

Melo says the regulations give incumbents a big advantage over challengers because office holders can tout themselves whenever they want -- like Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward did with this human trafficking TV campaign.

"Human trafficking is real and it may be happening right here," said Melo.

"Mr. Ward who ran for district attorney had all these billboards out all over the county telling everyone what a great district attorney he was basically, advertising for his campaign at taxpayer expense," said Melo.

Melo already got Tulare to change its ordinance and her latest lawsuit targeted Coalinga on behalf of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

The city's ordinance banned campaign signs more than 60 days before an election and seven days after.

Coalinga's city attorney told me they didn't enforce the rule and nine days after Melo filed the lawsuit, the city council voted on a special agenda item to change it.

Melo's mission will just move forward.

"There's other cities such as Bakersfield oh my gosh, it's all over the state. So we've started in our local backyard so to speak and we're moving up and then down the state," said Melo.
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