Editorial: Signs of the Time

By Robin Barker

‘Tis the season… to watch the tangle of campaign signs sprout like multicolored weeds on the corners of every major intersection.  They’re distracting, unattractive and, for the most part, illegible if you are driving anywhere close to the speed limit. Some have so much gibberish on them one has no idea who or what the issue/office or candidate is. Others lean over one way or another waving in the monsoon winds, threatening to escape the hard soil into which they have been drilled, pounded and forcibly inserted.

Yes, they are an eyesore; however, let’s think about the long process that preceded their existence. In order to get to the sign part, a candidate has to navigate through the system. First comes the decision to actually do it. Now, that might sound easy, but it takes some cojones to put yourself out there, exposed to the naysayers, gossips and those who simply take great joy in putting others down.

Once the decision is made, the potential candidate has to go to the city clerk, county clerk or the secretary of state to get a campaign packet. The packet includes blank petitions, finance disclosure forms, campaign committee forms and a plethora of other legal papers and reports, all of which must be filled out and returned in a timely manner throughout the year, win or lose.

After filling out the initial paperwork, the candidate now has to get the required number of signatures on the petitions. Signing a petition doesn’t mean voting for the candidate; it simply allows them to be on the ballot. This fact is often misunderstood, making this step even more difficult. Those who sign must meet certain criteria…they must be a resident of the district; they must be a registered voter, and in some cases, they must be registered in a specific party.

Some candidates don’t circulate their own petitions, especially those running for state and national office. Those folks hire people to do it – and we’ve seen how well that works out – but the process was originally intended to give the voter the opportunity to meet the candidates as they traveled throughout their district. Here in town, some of you may have had the opportunity to meet some of the local candidates as they walked door to door during the heat of May and early June.

Only when a candidate has the required number of signatures turned in to the appropriate office can they begin to consider signs, banners, t-shirts, mailers, buttons, etc. Local candidates will spend anywhere from $500 to $2500 dollars on these items. Some will actually live up to the “Shop Local” mantra (ask your favorites where they bought their signs), while others will turn to the net, hoping to find a bargain and depriving local businesses the income.

Finally, comes the sprouting on corners. Candidates place anywhere from 40 to 100 signs in local elections, varying from small yard signs to huge corner-crowding banners. They have thought long and hard about the colors, the verbiage and the placement. It takes days to get them all out, even with help.

You would think that would be the end of it until the election, but wait: there’s more! Once a candidate has gone through all this effort to catch your eye and your vote, signs disappear. They fall, get blown down or worse yet – and much too often – someone takes them.

You don’t have to like the candidates or even vote for them, but after all the money and sweat equity these folks put into the process of running for office,  at least respect their right to do so.  As summer turns into autumn, this too will pass, and the only things left blooming on our corners will be street names and stop signs again.

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