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The Phony War Over Campaign Signs

| August 17, 2014

political campaign signs

Ugly as ugly gets. (c FlaglerLive)

Every election season glaciers and polar ice caps melt a bit more from the hot air. But nothing rivals the pollution of political signs. Those things take over properties at the busiest intersections, spiking up from the ground in the shape of stunted billboards or deranged name tags. They assault the eyes, soil the landscape, mock the First Amendment and serve almost no purpose.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive The signs say nothing. A name is just a name. It doesn’t tell you whether the candidate is smart, compassionate, inquisitive, honest, ethical. It doesn’t tell you anything about the candidate’s history, the candidate’s voting record, the candidate’s work ethic. It may tell you a lot about the candidate’s ego. The larger the sign, the more the candidate is trying to compensate for something. The more frequent the sign, the more insecure its peddler. And the more colorful or dazzling the sign, the more empty-headed the man or woman behind it, as dazzle usually compensates for missing substance.

I’m not knocking the right of candidates to abuse the First Amendment. But a little information would be nice. Every candidate claims to think outside the box. Show us how it’s not just an awful cliche by starting to think outside the rectangle, because if any voter casts a ballot based on a sign, that voter is a pitiful excuse for democracy. That it happens must tell us quite a bit about where we are as a democracy.

For all that, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d hear anyone actually advocating for this blight. But in Flagler County, hell has a habit of freezing over.


The Supervisor of Elections wants more election signs. Not only that. But Kimberle Weeks and a couple of mercenary candidates from the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies claim that county government is trying to manipulate the election, silence political expression and keep voters from voting by, get this, forbidding political signs from being planted on public property, like at the public library.

The supervisor claims that disallowing signs increases “dangerous” interaction between campaign volunteers and voters. She claims that voters have actually turned tail and opted not to vote because of the intimidation factor. Of course, she can’t produce a single actual voter who’s done so. She’s adopted the Reagan Assembly candidates’ tactic of fear-mongering for profit and leaving the fact-checking to the afterlife. You expect this of Reagan Assembly fabricators. They’e only living up to their namesake’s fondness for fiction. You don’t expect it of your supervisor of elections.

She claims not to have aligned herself with the Reagan wannabes, that she’s only looking to have all candidates treated fairly. But the fact is that it’s only the Reaganites who are manufacturing this bogus issue, and Weeks’s willingness to lackey for them at public meetings lends them the appearance of credibility. They do this sort of thing at every election. It’s their hunt-for-red-October-like grasp for any screaming fit that’ll get them attention, as their actual platforms have yet to graduate to coherence.

Now, I know there’s been a few candidates who’ve acted like idiots out there. But for all their irritability, candidates are usually no more offensive than the woman at Publix who wants you to sample her lemon squares. And if voters aren’t showing up at the polls, it’s not because of zealous campaigners. It’s because voters are bored, disillusioned, indifferent. All you have to do is look at this year’s disastrous crop of candidates. It’s a wonder anyone is voting at all, or making it out of the voting booth without a severe case of colitis.

Actually, they’re not voting, and you can’t blame them: after six days of early voting, just 2,156 ballots have been cast, and 2,500 absentee ballots received, out of almost 7,000 sent. That’s fewer than 400 ballots cast per day at three locations. It’s not the signs. It’s the ballot.

And yes, the supervisor does have a point: the county is being a little heavy-handed by forbidding all signs all the time, even at polling stations. Half of us have Alzheimer’s these days, and a little reminder of the usual suspects on the ballot isn’t a bad idea before we walk into the torture booth. Palm Coast, surprisingly, which usually acts like North Korea on all matters of code enforcement, is the more tolerant one in this case. So it’s not as if the supervisor and the county couldn’t compromise a little on this one. But just a little, keeping in mind that signs don’t make for better elections. Better candidates do.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A version of this piece was broadcast on WNZF.

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25 Responses for “The Phony War Over Campaign Signs”

  1. m&m says:

    Do people look and and read them?? I think they’re an eye sore.. If people rely on those when they vote they’re out of touch and probably should’nt voting in the first place..

    • Steven Nobile says:

      I agree. I hope people are looking beyond the number of signs a candidate has to determine who gets their vote.

  2. Carol Mikola says:

    You are absolutely correct when you say that Kimberle Weeks has adopted the Reagan Assembly candidates’ tactic of fear-mongering for profit and leaving the fact-checking to the afterlife. PERFECT ANALYSIS of both Ms. Weeks and the Ronald Reagan “Republican” Assembly.

    I do wonder at Weeks’s “willingness to lackey for them” as you put it; she is supposed to be a democrat. It is difficult for me to believe, however, that anyone’s support gives the RRR candidates “the appearance of credibility”.

    As an aside, I know you are not a Reagan fan, but this group does not bear any resemblance to our former President.

  3. KMedley says:

    For all of the hullabaloo from Weeks and the Reaganistas, does anyone else see the rich irony with their latest plight of the month? Both Weeks and the Reaganistas are the ones most likely to violate county and city sign ordinances. Weeks’ black and yellow signs literally blanket the county and its cities with little regard for either private property rights and/or state, county, or city ordinances regarding the placement of signs. I saw two of Richter’s signs, located on Old Kings Road, (before Town Center), that were nailed to light poles and trees. The majority of Reaganista candidates have positioned signs on property without obtaining permission.

    I’d like to see an increase in the use of technology in order to get candidate messages out to the public. There are ways to do that without claiming the life of a tree.

  4. Brad says:

    BRAVO!!!!!!

    I am printing and framing this beautifully written and so very true work of art. Thank you. So many of us have been waiting for such a powerful voice about this ever increasing blemish and problem.

    Low voter turnout is what is dangerous. Lack of signs is not the problem contributing to that huge issue.

  5. confidential says:

    I noticed the light sign announcing “Early Voting” with an arrow to the Club House Drive Community Center. Whoever is responsible for that sign I deeply appreciate it! Thank You!
    Also Pierre, I always taste the samplers offered by our cordial chaperones in Publix I think is just our Americana Style and not only I enjoy it, taste it, congratulate the chef but to help them I buy their promotions. We disagree on this one.

    • Genie says:

      @ Confidential – Interesting comment! I was voting at the Community Center when a woman came in and thanked everybody for the sign.

      She said she didn’t realize that early voting had begun.

  6. yellowstone says:

    The signage serves a purpose and offers name recognition. Much like the NASCAR that zips around the track with “Doritos” emblazoned on its side. Every time you see that car there is a subliminal message sent and stored. When it comes time to recall a name – that image is present.

    You have to consider there are some who do read those signs – that is, folks if and when they do read!

    In some foreign countries I have visited, the elections use colors rather than the alphabet. Folks there cannot read – but remember the colors and vote accordingly to their conscience.

    Then, too, it does keep the sign folks employed. (It’s always about money and jobs!)

  7. Silvereed says:

    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
    Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

  8. Will says:

    One thing about the groupings of signs: I try to educate myself on the candidates before voting. If I see a sign for someone unknown to me, I’ll take the time to find out more about that candidate, before voting, one way or another. For that reason, and for raising the awareness of an upcoming election, the signs have value.

  9. Sandra Reynolds says:

    I believe the candidates with the most signs hope we will remember “his/her” name when entering the booth. What purpose do these signs serve other than name recognition?

  10. Raloh Belcher says:

    I’ve heard first hand from Ms. Weeks that she is a huge sign advocate when it comes to her campaign. And to her credit, I think that tipped the scales in her favor. Out of what I’d agree is a pathetic turnout of voters casting ballots, I’d almost bet my next settlement check (oops, mixing campaigns) that a minority of them do any homework and really research the candidates. Hence the sign recognition factor. It is what it is.

    Above all that, I want to thank the editor, Pierre Tristam for a truly phenomenal job on everything he posts.

  11. Devrie says:

    :) Funny this article pops up today. At the intersection of Belle Terre and 100, while getting ready to go go on the green light, my 13 year old daughter gazed at all the signs and turned to me and flatly said, “Wait, we have to read all the signs.” She’s such a hoot.

  12. Toni Baker, Candidate for School Board says:

    I have to shake my head on this issue. That could be because I only have hand made signs! You can see me at the corner of Old Kings Rd and Palm Coast Parkway and the library! I’ve lost my other sign holders to the start of school! I also got stabbed by a poll worker removing signs from the library, in what became rather contentious confrontation . Bad timing, I guess! No matter the signs, it’s important everyone get out and vote for the candidate of your choice, the apathy is terrible!

  13. confidential says:

    Silvereed…. Signs Signs everywehere a Signs..HUUH ! I love that song that makes me want to dance!
    Sings to obey and make possible for us all to try and live in harmony…

  14. Oh yea says:

    Even a child knows signs are important. Love it!

  15. Mr Breeze says:

    Speaking of Belle Terre, would like to know of all the signs at this intersection, how many candidates actually have permission from the owner (who’s in California) to place their signs on this “private” individuals property? Would it be considered trespassing if they don’t? That goes for Seminole Woods Blvd & 100 as well.

  16. Derrick R. says:

    I agree we need to study the issues along with the candidate. Only am idiot would vote blindly.
    But the signage is a blight on the beauty of our county. Not every inch of gods green earth needs to be littered with them. How many are left to litter our spaces after the election?
    I also think there should be a restrictions on all signage and electioneering within 1000 feet of a polling site.

  17. tulip says:

    I would guess that a very large amount of people vote by osmosis from seeing signage all the time or, if they don’t even pay attention to the signs, they ask their friends or family who to vote for and act accordingly having no idea who these candidates are.

    Many times I’ve heard people say “I don’t know anything about the candidates, who’s a good one?.”

    I saw an ad for Mr Holley who will be running against either Meeker or McDonald in the general and I’m already looking at what he’s about. In particular, I’m also looking at the candidate who will run against McLaughlin or Richter.

  18. Obama 2014 says:

    They can liter Palm Coast with Campaign Signs but if someone wants to have a yard sale they get a threat of a fine because they put up a few signs for a few hours on public land. I’ve been told Yard Sale Signs are dangerous and cause accidents (people slow down to read them) but these signs are all over Palm Coast for months. I guess no one reads them.

    When I see these signs near my home I pull them out of the ground and toss them in the trash (or use them for my yard sale) . If it is the public right of way, I can remove them as much as they can put them up.

  19. Genie says:

    Is it possible for people in this community to get along about anything? I am beginning to wonder.

    The signs are up for early voting and election day and then the sign owner must remove them. How do you expect people to run for office without being able to put out a temporary sign?

    Small wonder Palm Coast has such lousy government, red light cameras, etc. Between incumbents being voted in again and again and again and the fact that so few vote, we are doomed.

    We can’t agree about anything. Whose election rights are being stifled here?

  20. confidential says:

    I do not remove anyone’s signs…unless the event date is over with and they are laying down flat in the ground.

  21. Rick says:

    “But nothing rivals the pollution of political signs.”
    Once again, never more a truer statement. They look so nice cluttering up the intersections & scattered down the side of our highways. For what Palm Coast attempts to portray in scenery, this time of year certainly defies the whole situation.

    “It may tell you a lot about the candidate’s ego. The larger the sign, the more the candidate is trying to compensate for something.”
    Remind you of anything like the large car syndrome?

    Politicians, never trusted ’em, never will. They’re about as sincere & honest as the car lot salesmen.

  22. Sheila Zinkerman says:

    A sign carries a linguistic message. Like the cry of an animal, it is a way to communicate. Bundled campaign signs once or twice a year are a mosaic that reminds me of my freedom to choose a candidate. Put meaning in the mess. Go vote.

  23. Loyce Allen says:

    YES! GET OUT AND VOTE! LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR, REGARDLESS, SIGNS OR NOT!!! KNOW WHO YOUR CANDIDATES ARE AND WHAT THEY STAND FOR. THEIR PARTY AFFILIATIONS MATTERS BECAUSE IT ALLOWS YOU A LOOK AT THEIR CHARACTER, AND THE THINGS THEY STAND FOR. I MYSELF PERSONALLY SUPPORT THE SIGNS AS OUR RIGHT AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH, WHICH INCLUDES YARD SALE SIGNS! AS A MATTER OF FACT, SPEAKING OF SIGNS, JOIN OUR RALLY, THIS SATURDAY FROM 9 TO 1 PM ON PINE LAKES PARKWAY, DOWN FROM BELLE TERRE FOR OUR DEMOCRATS UNITE RALLY! WE HAVE THE SIGNS, IF YOU HAVE A LITTLE TIME!!! SIGNS, SIGNS SIGNS! KNOW AND GROW, VOTE STRONG, NOT WRONG!

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