Signs of Spring

Friday’s post sparked a Facebook discussion about the role of signs in elections.

They’re often the first sign of a coming election, sprouting up like dandelions from still-frozen ground. Usually patriotic blue or red, with festive stars, but the last few years, you’ll see attention-grabbing green, purple and yellow.

But how effective are they? Do signs influence elections? They must, or candidates wouldn’t allocate precious campaign dollars towards them.

The irony of the library board situation I mentioned Friday is that this slate of candidates has plastered their green and white signs all over town, including in tree banks and on public right-of-ways where they’re technically verboten. Yet, the same trio hasn’t bothered to attend candidate forums or answer questionnaires about their positions.

Note the three green and white signs within about 100 feet. And there were additional signs around the corner of this busy west-side intersection

While out for a long, slow, cold 7 miler Sunday, I was mulling over the sign conundrum. I started counting the green and white slate signs, losing count when I hit 20. They were often clustered together with other candidates, and seemed to be sprinkled heavily at major intersections.

Also interesting to observe were how the different signs were paired. Officially, our municipal elections are non-partisan. We get to pick three council members out of ten candidates, and one mayor from two candidates. Several alliances have sprung up, some formal, most informal, and this is sometimes reflected by how the signs are grouped.

But not always.

And how do the signs end up so strategically placed? The times I’ve hosted a sign in my yard (including my current Curtin for Council sign), I’ve always asked for it. But I’ve heard numerous anecdotes of signs magically appearing overnight, or disappearing, as the case may be. This seems particularly prevalent on highly visible blocks.

Do residents know who these candidates are when signs appear on their yard? Do they just not bother to remove them? Are they inspired to go look up information on the candidate in question? Do they know that the candidates on their sign refuse to answer questions?

While running Sunday, I paused a couple times to take pictures. I couldn’t get a good, non-glared shot of the biggest sign farm I saw along McLean, where at least a dozen signs clustered in a vacant lot, competing for attention.

I wonder how long these signs will stick around after the election. Both Keith Farnham and Michael Noland were elected in November, and yet their signs remain all over town.

Do signs influence your political choices? Would you ever vote for someone just because you see their signs all over the place and think, “Hey, they must be popular/good/wealthy if they have so many signs”? Or do you use signs to become aware of which candidates are running, and do your research from there?

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4 responses to “Signs of Spring

  1. Pingback: Showing Up: A Sign of Respect | The Adventures of Elginista

  2. I think people put a bit too much emphasis on signs, candidates included…Everything I’ve learned about political strategy has had very little to do with “get out the signs”. A lot of random things influence how people vote, but I’m not convinced that seeing signs is a significant one.

    The library board race will be a perfect test to see how much they matter. These guys have done absolutely zero (as far as I can tell) campaigning other than putting signs everywhere. I doubt it will work, but it’ll be interesting to see the results.

    Maybe come Wednesday I’ll be eating crow and completely rethinking the way I see politics!

    • I agree that there’s way too much emphasis on signs, but they are visually the biggest part of a campaign. (Especially for a local race where you don’t start doing TV commercials, billboards, etc.) The green sign trio has also taken out ads in the Courier, and I found their door hanger waiting for me the other night when I got home.

      Interesting that they’re putting in so much effort on that front, but not doing the most basic, simple, IMPORTANT part of a campaign: speaking to constituents.

      I hope we’re not eating crow Weds. It tends to cause indigestion.

  3. Pingback: Getting Money out of Elections? | The Adventures of Elginista

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