Earlier this fall, a federal district court in California entered an order dismissing a challenge to election sign regulations promulgated by the City of Coalinga, California. Coalinga had a sign regulation that prohibited the display of election signs more than 60 days prior to and more than seven days after an election. June Vera Sanchez and the Dolores Huerta Foundation sought to display political messages outside of the election season, and challenged the regulation on First Amendment grounds in an action filed in June 2018. Following the filing of the lawsuit, in July 2018, the city amended its regulations to withdraw the challenged election sign regulation. In August 2018, the city filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claim and that the action was moot.
Because the plaintiffs offered no generalized or specific threat of enforcement of the challenged regulations, the court entered an order dismissing the underlying action. Although the plaintiffs argued that the city could simply resume enforcement of the election sign ordinance following the dismissal of the case, the court concluded that outcome was unlikely. The city’s amendment of its sign code in July 2018 recognized the constitutional defects of the election sign ordinance, and the city was unlikely to enforce such an unconstitutional provision in the future.
While this case concluded early, it is almost certain that the court would have struck down Coalinga’s restrictions. These types of content-based restrictions were nearly identical to those struck down by the Supreme Court in Reed v. Town of Gilbert in 2015.