Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sign, Sign...Everywhere a Sign...

Over at Torontoist blog, they take a look at the different aspects of effective election signage. The blog takes a close look at what makes a sign eye catching and what makes a sign "ho hum" boring. Of course the blog, Torontoist, uses Toronto city Council candidates as examples.

In the province of Ontario right now municipalities (i.e. towns and cities) are currently holding elections for their respective local councils.

 As everyone knows elections usually brings forth a plethora of signs (as the above picture of Aurora council and mayoral candidates will show). At least the towns making up York Region all are able to recycle the plastic and paper signs in the recycling programs. So the chances of the above signs entering landfill in Michigan is far less likely. What does Aurora & Toronto have to do with garbage in Michigan? That's where these two places send their trash!

 True some council candidates try and go without using election signs claiming it damages the environment. I applaud these council candidates for trying to reduce the amount of paper and plastic being produced. But on the downside, the candidate's names are not widely known because their names aren't on signs that are seen repeatedly by prospective voters.

From past Aurora municipal elections I have found council candidates who do use signs and use them effectively tend to get elected. With the Torontoist blog taking a look a deep look at election sign design, lets take a look here at sign location.

As I have traveled around Aurora I have noticed two different places and two different times election signs are used:

The places:

1. Most council candidates first place the signs on the lawns or in windows where supporters reside or have their business. In Toronto, due to fact election signs are hard to pound into cement, businesses put election signs in their front windows. At residences these signs are easily placed on the lawns. The lawn and business signage is quite effective in the eyes of the candidate. This is because people going by will see their neighbour is supporting a certain candidate, so why not vote for them too? This type of thinking can be a voter loser in some cases if the homeowner is thought to be a nuisance or "local renegade". Then perhaps the neighbours might dismiss the candidate's name and vote for one of the competitors. Otherwise, they are usually pretty safe because these same signs are seen by everyone on the street at least once a day as neighbours walk or drive by one residence.

2. On public lawns like parks or boulevards. Today I noticed along one major road in Aurora that the signs look worse than dandelions in spring! There were signs near the trees, signs giving the curb of the road a challenge to stay in on place and a plethora of signs competing for space (even worse than the above photo). These can be effective if used in a repetitive fashion. I have found that the signs located on public lawns tend to multiply like rabbits the weekend before voters go to the polls. This is because candidates believe if they can just get their name stuck in the head of the voter just before they go to the poll then perhaps they may gain some additional votes. In Aurora this is especially so considering that each voter can elect up to ten positions (1 mayor, 8 councilors and 1 school trustee). So in Aurora's case, keeping ten names straight can be hard to do for some voters. With this large number of candidates to vote for, in Aurora's case, some voters might forget one council candidate's name they originally intended to vote for. Instead, the voter might choose another candidate's name because it was on a sign just before they got to the polls. Basically the signs planted on public lawns are meant to re-enforce the name of the candidate on the mind of the voter.


1. Usually election signs start sprouting as election day draws to within one or two months. The signs located on residential lawns are the first to be placed. These lawns are usually the ones the candidate knows pretty well. In other words most of the first election signs are placed on family and friends lawns. Next the ones on public lawns in prime locations are placed. This is to stake out prime real estate like on corners at intersections of major roads. This ply for public lawn locations is because the candidate who gets the spot first, gets to leave their sign their for the entire campaign. Also throughout the campaign candidates are knocking on doors and finding supporters. These supporters may request a lawn sign. The candidate, not wanting to upset a prospective voter, will usually oblige as it usually secures the vote of the property owner as well as helps to promote the candidate's name in the neighbourhood (this is discussed above).

2. The weekend before the election day the signs start to grow even faster. This is because the final push is on in order to get the candidate's name known. So public lawns usually start seeing signs multiply on them and challenge each other for space. Today in Aurora I walked along a major road for just over one kilometer and estimate I saw more than fifty to sixty signs. Most of the signs were for two mayoral candidates. I definitely have her name on my mind. She claims to be for the environment but the over doing of the election signs on this particular street tells me differently!

Signs are generally seen as being a positive for candidates to get their names out there. However, what some candidates don't see, that I have illustrated above, the signs can have negative effects. But nonetheless, it seems, signs are required to win an election. That is because for the most part those candidates that refuse to put up election signs don't seem to be successfully elected.

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