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Front Page » November 4, 2008 » Carbon County News » Election campaign signs represent staple of political sce...
Published 2,117 days ago

Election campaign signs represent staple of political scene in United States


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

The signs cannot be missed during a season of elections. They are placed on every corner, often on country roads, posted on fences and anchored in front yards by steel rods.

Campaign signs are everywhere.

After Nov. 4, they will start to come down as winners and losers remove the signs from yards and public areas.

While the emphasis in 2008 election nationally has been on the presidency, most of the signs in Carbon County concern local candidates.

Signs promoting candidates for state senator, legislative representative, county commission positions and school board seats are spread throughout the area.

Only a few signs for the Obama or McCain campaign can be found.

Campaign signs are as old as democracy.

While it was not in vogue to be too obvious about running for election in the early Greek democracies, citizens sometimes saw banners that proclaimed candidates for legislative bodies in Roman times.

American democracy has taken the art of the campaign sign to a new level.

In the early days of the country, a banner across a road or street could be seen and, at rallies, hand lettered signs were sometimes apparent. But few people placed the election signs in their yards.

In the last 60 years since the end of World War II, the campaign sign business has grown immensely.

Posters that started out in the 1940s as thin cardboard on small wooden stakes have been replaced with high tech lettering on water resistant composite materials, complete with steel frames to place the election campaign signs into almost any kind of ground.

But probably the most striking thing is how the signs have changed in color and effect.

Larger and larger signs have continually appeared. And with modern printing capabilities, the signs are becoming more colorful and exact than ever.

Many of the signs have large photos of candidates, reminding people that they know the individuals well.

Costs for signage have increased, too.

At one time, many of the posters were hand lettered by people sitting at tables in a campaign headquarters.

Today, a standard lawn sign 12-inches by 18-inches will cost between 85 cents and $1.20 when bought in lots of 100.

A myriad of printers make the signs. Most are weather proof.

Of course, the larger the sign, the higher the cost.

One double sided 48-inch by 96-inch sign can cost $160. A candidate who buys in bulk and orders 100 can get the signs for about $60 each.

Signs can be single sided or double sided so people see the candidates' names coming and going.

Some use colors that illuminate them in the dark.

Thickness can be a factor, too, depending on how long the signs will be out in the field. Weather and vandals are often a problem with campaign signs.

Most signs are put out by volunteers. But in many local elections, the candidate are often seen putting signs on street corners and along roadways.

On some corners in Carbon County, all candidates on the ballot - with the exception of judge retention elections - has signs representing them.

Political opponents' signs are often placed next to one another. The scenes change from time to time as one candidate upgrades to a larger more colorful sign.

It is a case of campaign sign one up-man-ship.

When the election has concluded, county statute requires that signs be removed.

The ordinance states:

"Temporary signs not exceeding (32) square feet in size promoting the candidacy of an individual for public office (may be placed along county roads). Signs must be removed (within) fifteen (15) days after (the) applicable election."

There was a time when there were no ordinances and campaign signs could be left standing for months, fading in the sun and often turning to shreds before they were removed by crews cleaning up a road.

"There have been some nasty fights about campaign signs over the years in the county," said Carbon planning and zoning director Dave Levanger. "There were side issues to it as well, but the signs were in the center of it, especially in some elections in the 1980s"

On Tuesday, the 2008 election signs will start to come down.

Sad faces may accompany the candidates who have lost the elections.

Other faces removing the signs will be wondering what they will do with the elected jobs they have been voted into occupying.

In some places, the signs are being recycled as candidates try to be green to please constituents.

Other candidates are finding uses beyond the political world.

One man in North Carolina is building corrugated heaters out of used campaign signs to help warm homes in the winter and spring.

But most of the signs go to the landfill where they will waste away, maybe to be discovered by some long lost archaeologist who will try to make rhyme or reason out of the lettering of the ancient political advertisement.

In the long run, the set of signs currently standing on the corners in the county will be replaced by others as a new election cycle starts with different candidate running for office.

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