A quick rundown on campaign signs

It seems like patches of grass along roads can never be protected from being staked in the proverbial heart by flashy political campaign signs.

Candidates vying to become a legislator, sheriff, congressional representative, council chair and so forth are making their presence known.

The temporary signs hungrily and persistently try to catch a driver’s gaze – perhaps even just a fleeting glimpse – with bulky fonts and bright colors. Sometimes a candidate’s grin or stoic pose will make an appearance, too. Getting this attention is a simple task, as the ads can be found everywhere whether it’s by a sidewalk, leaning near a major highway or sitting in a median.

A concerned resident even wrote a letter to the editor saying that signs can distract drivers, which can be especially dangerous where children are likely to be outside.

However, what may seem like a seemingly useless annoyance on constituents’ eyes carries some sway on elections.

Signage, whether you like it or not, does influence a voter’s decision to choose a certain individual over another, according to research published in  Electoral Studies, an academic journal. The study found that this campaigning tool increased voter share by 1.7 percent – a small yet indicative number on its effectiveness.

Not all challengers hoping secure a spot in political office rely on posting their logo or face throughout their respective district. Some already have recognition in the region.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has a history of scattering her signs closer to election dates because her constituents already know who she is, according to the incumbent’s campaign manager. Instead, the campaign invests its resources into other means of reaching voters.

Those who wonder whether the signs will disappear as quickly as they emerged might be satisfied with the answer – sort of.

Signs are not permitted to be placed on public property. Private owners, on the other hand, can do what they want on their own land and are usually the culprits of erecting those inescapable, gargantuan ads. The latter posts may be susceptible to following a jurisdiction’s standards, though.

Each municipality within the county has restrictions for how long they are permitted to remain. The city of Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal and unincorporated Clark County have a limit of 15 days after the election until signs must be removed. For Camas and Woodland, it’s 10 days.

More town-specific regulations on temporary signs can be found in a handy packet on clark.wa.gov, which also includes permitted sizing and diagrams for proper placement.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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