COLUMN: Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

The practice of saturating city streets with election signs is outdated, wasteful – and even potentially dangerous to motorists

This election might be the death of me.

I don’t mean from a professional point of view – while covering elections as a reporter can sometimes be a grueling chore, it hasn’t necessarily been my area of focus, as there are others here at the Peace Arch News far better equipped for such beats.

But I mean it might literally kill me.

My morning commute is a relative short one, anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, to our office here in South Surrey. Much of my travel is done through rural neighbourhoods, too, but even the sparsely populated communities of the Lower Mainland haven’t been immune to election signs.

Like, a lot of them.

There’s one particular intersection on my route where I need to make a right-hand turn. Often this is done on a red light. So every morning I – and my fellow right-hand turning motorists – roll up to the intersection, come to a brief stop, and look to our left for oncoming traffic.

When it’s clear, you go. Simple, right?

In theory, sure, but the task is made ever more difficult – not to mention dangerous – when a massive 10-foot-wide sign is blocking the view of oncoming traffic.

Look, politician (who shall remain nameless), I enjoy your smiling mug greeting me every morning as much as the next person, but I’d much rather get to work in one piece.

The intersection in question is far from the only spot I’ve seen curiously placed signs during election season, of course. There are plenty of examples.

And I realize, too, that safe placement of signs is probably low on campaign volunteers’ priority list when there are thousands upon thousands to plant into the ground before Nov. 15. But there must be a better system out there somewhere.

I have never understood sign saturation as an election strategy. Does anyone believe it works?

Has anyone actually been swayed to vote a certain way simply because of a sign (or 200) they happened to see on their drive to the polling station?

I have my doubts.

I’m not necessarily suggesting we do away with them completely. Want to plant a sign every few blocks, or in high-traffic areas? Go for it.

Are you a business-owner or private resident who wants to show support for a particular candidate, with a sign on your own property? I’m fine with that, too.

But post 1,000 small signs – each a mere six inches from one another – along a median on the same stretch of road, and that’s where I draw the line. If I saw the first sign, assume that I didn’t pay attention to the 999 identical ones that followed.

I know excessive signage has been a campaign practice for decades – maybe longer – but just because that’s the way things have always been done, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change now.

Adapt or die, as they say.

You know what candidate would win my vote? The one who comes out and says creating a million or so election signs is an unnecessary expense, is largely ineffective – not to mention wasteful – and that he or she doesn’t believe in bombarding the community with them, and instead will focus on alternative ways to have their name and message recognized.

And it’s not as though there are a lack of alternatives. Here are some free ideas, just off the top of my head (you’re welcome):

Start an online campaign through social media. Advertise in a well-read newspaper. Produce a slick-looking website. Knock on doors and meet with as many people as you can. Stand outside the mall and hand out campaign fliers. Have intelligent and thoughtful answers to questions posed during all-candidates meetings.

Any of those strategies would be more effective.

Because if the only time I see your name is when it’s printed on a sign that’s coming through my windshield after a car crash, I’m probably going to vote for somebody else.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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