When I lived in the rural area where I grew up, there were quite a few signs that would crop up around election days. Any person who had a candidate they supported would put up a sign in their yard. Large signs, small ones, yards were full of them.
But they were only in people’s yards. Once you got into town, there might be a sign in a business’ window, but they were kept to property that was owned by someone.
When I moved to Northern Virginia, it was in September. Suddenly, not long after, I started spotting these small election signs in the median. I was confused, I knew from different dealings back home that signs weren’t allowed on public/state property. I assumed the rules were different up here, and I was not happy about it. Before the end of October, the median was littered with signs. And it wasn’t like home, where one sign for each candidate they supported was in place in one area. Every five feet was a sign for the same person.
Did they think I couldn’t see the first one? Were they afraid they would get taken down? Then, a day later, the opposing candidate would come along and put signs on either side of the existing ones, tripling the ugliness. Then another volunteer would drive by and the signs would double again.
There is no other way to describe this practice: it is an eyesore. It is wasteful. It is in short, one of the most disgusting displays of political idiocy that I have ever seen. The money and manpower spent on those signs could do so much good, and instead it’s rusting and fading on a median in Tyson’s Corner.
A recent news report cleared up one issue for me: these signs ARE illegal. When you vote for a candidate who puts up a sign in a median or right-of-way you are voting for a criminal. The fact that everybody does it changes nothing for me. The fact that they promise to take down the signs after the election doesn’t change it, especially considering that a handful of signs always remain for months. They become even more litter on our roadsides.
VDOT says that they can’t enforce the restrictions on this kind of signage. They don’t have the manpower or the money to deal with it. So I say if people don’t like the signs they need to make a point: they need to stop voting for people just because they saw their name at an intersection.
People wouldn’t do this if it didn’t work. I wonder, if a candidate made a big stink about not putting up those kinds of signs, made a platform out of not creating litter and waste, would they get elected? I would probably vote for them.
I also wonder, if regular citizens who are tired of this went through and started pulling up the signs themselves, would they get into trouble? If we started a group that regularly pulled up signs whenever they found them, would that be considered a help or a hindrance? If you said that the candidates could come pick up their signs, would it still be considered theft? If you took the signs back to their headquarters with a note that said, “You seem to have placed these signs illegally. I’ve taken the liberty of clearing up for you, please follow all rules and statutes for signs in the future” would they get the hint, or cry first amendment?
There’s an election every year in Virginia. I’ve lived here through three Novembers, and I’m already sick and tired of this issue. But what in the world can be done about it?