The weekend before a primary or general election is high season for political signs; the larger ones we’ve been used to seeing filling up on street corners seem to have procreated.
They are now surrounded by little signs that not only look somewhat like their parents, they also have the same last names.
Little or big, most people’s initial reaction to such signs is based on taste, as in, “Yecch!,” rather than based on tolerance for competing ideas, ideas that don’t have a chance to get anywhere unless they enter our brains somehow.
It’s easier to remember how to respond with “Yecch!” than to remember our high school civics teachers quoting us that famous line attributed to Voltaire about even though I don’t agree with you, I’d fight to the death for your right to have a say in things.
Still, it’s that signs are in our faces — the very intent of the people who erected them — that affect our views about them the most. Here in the East Valley, every even numbered year political sign season begins in early January for city elections in March and May straight through to November, for elections in that month and September.
A few days after Scottsdale’s city runoff elections in May I heard local activist George Knowlton say to Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce President Rick Kidder that now that the election was over, signs that Kidder’s committee had posted urging yes votes on a city spending cap measure should finally be coming down.
In fact, a couple of days later such a sign near my home had come down — and was replaced in the same spot by a sign asking passers-by to vote for state Rep. Laura Knaperek in the next election, which happens to be Tuesday.
As unnerving and annoying as sign season has been, though, it is not over. In fact, it’s now going into the playoffs.
And if you think that signs bearing all kinds of last names were bothersome, you’ll love the fact that with 19 ballot propositions facing voters Nov. 7, with people wanting you to vote yes or no on each one, let’s see, that potentially makes for 38 kinds of signs for the propositions alone.
Yep. We’re going to see signs that simply will be trying to drive 204! 105! 106! 203! and 15 others into your head.
Campaign signs are a form of speech people lump into the same group with so-called negative or attack ads on television. We sincerely complain about them, but the political researchers have proved time and again how effective they are at reminding people to vote and about what. Signs and ads don’t go much further than that — that is, there’s no substance to them.
But all that means is that it is our unshakable responsibility as voters to actually study the candidates and the issues through means that aren’t as convenient as simply making a right-hand turn or channel-surfing.