ACROSS AMERICA — Did you notice? The midterm elections are coming up. You can read all about the political season — well, some about it — on your neighbors’ yard signs.
Elections are, of course, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. But we asked Patch readers to tell us the truth: What do you really think about the political signs staked in your neighbor’s yard?
Here are seven takeaways from our reader discussions on local Patch Facebook pages:
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1. Yard Signs = Free Speech
“Let’s not forget freedom of speech,” a Berkeley Township (New Jersey) Patch reader wrote. “People should be allowed to put out signs. Let’s not try to stop that because we dislike their politics.”
“Last I checked,” a Joliet (Illinois) Patch reader pointed out, “this is still a free country.”
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A Temecula (California) Patch reader agrees, but with a caveat.
“As long as they’re not vulgar, I don’t mind the signs,” the person said. “Freedom of speech is necessary, and we should continue to fight for it in all aspects of our lives.”
2. They Effective — For Starting Fights
A Concord (New Hampshire) Patch reader said today’s political candidates should abandon old-fashioned means of courting voters and meet them where they are — online.
“Campaign mailings, constant ads and signs all over no longer cut it,” she wrote. “Online in formation and research is where the truth is. …”
“If you are deciding who to vote for based on a yard sign,” a Warminister (Pennsylvania) Patch reader agreed, “you might want to spend some time researching the candidate.”
A couple of Salem (Massachusetts) Patch and Lansdale (Pennsylvania) Patch readers doubted political yard signs change many voters’ minds, calling them pointless and useless in the era of social media. Not only that, a Coventry (Rhode Island) Patch reader said, they’re “unnecessary and wasteful.”
A Middletown (New Jersey) Patch reader was among those who think political signs make for bad neighborhood relations.
“In principle, I’m fine with political lawn signs. Freedom of speech and all that,” she wrote. “But in the current divisive political climate, I think these signs just exacerbate the animosity between the sides.
“Are these signs actually effective campaign tools, anyway?” she asked. “Or do they just serve to pit neighbor against neighbor?”
A Bel Air (Maryland) Patch reader buys that, writing, “In a particularly charged political climate, posting signs may even be seen as an invitation to conflict or property damage.”
“The signs are useless unless you are boosting name recognition for an obscure candidate,” the person wrote. “Otherwise, you are simply making people who agree with you feel like they are part of a bigger group or making people who disagree with you not want to talk to you.
“Neither of those brings about any public good.”
Another Concord Patch reader said that although our nation’s voting system is based on a secret ballot, political signs can welcome “divisive rhetoric between friends and neighbors.”
“It shouldn’t, but it does,” she wrote. “Religion and politics should never separate friends and family.”
“Go for it — just wish they’d actually be about candidates or issues instead of just weird slogans that do nothing,” a Lacey (New Jersey) Patch reader wrote. “But I’ve lived in this town my whole life. I know the second someone puts up something that doesn’t flow with our town’s ‘majority’ views, it’ll get canceled. Likely by the same people who say they hate when things get canceled.”
“Politics, like religion, should be personal,” a Barnegat (New Jersey) Patch reader said.
3. Please Vandalize My Property
Some Patch readers said yard signs can be an invitation for mayhem.
“I would never show my politics at my home,” a Dublin (California) Patch reader emphasized. “These days, there are too many crazy people on both sides who would vandalize homes.”
The same concern causes mixed feelings about yard signs on the part of a Bel Air Patch reader.
“Yes and no,” he wrote. “Yes, because people are allowed to express their opinion. But also no, because people take signs too literally and will vandalize property because of it.”
“I had one in my yard a few years ago, and some kids in my neighborhood kicked it and destroyed it,” another Barnaget Patch reader wrote, adding, “Never again.”
4. Valuable Neighbor Intel
“Well,” a Lansdale Patch reader observed, “it’s one way of knowing the kind of neighbor you have” and “whom to avoid.”
A Berkeley Township Patch reader agreed, writing, “You do get to know their politics. And, hence, who to avoid conversations with.”
A Sachem (New York) Patch reader elaborated. People can do what they want on their property as long as it doesn’t violate homeowner association covenants or local laws.
“But when I see a house that’s got like 40 signs all over — that tells me to stay clear,” he wrote, adding, “That goes for both sides of the political spectrum, by the way.”
5. This Is What You Worry About?
There was no tip-toeing around our question for some Patch readers, who used direct language in their throw downs. A handful even used the fun shrugging emoji, perhaps suggesting a neighbor’s political signs shouldn’t be on anyone’s Top 10 list of things to worry about.
“Don’t like it,” a Livermore (California) Patch reader wrote, virtually shrugging, “don’t look at it.”
“It’s their property, not ours,” a Lansdale Patch reader wrote. “You have no say about it.” Another Lansdale reader agreed that “what people put on their lawn and how they vote is their business.”
From Joliet: “Who cares? It’s your yard.” Also, “If the signs are on your own property, you have a right to display them.”
From Berkeley Township: “Doesn’t bother me, not my business.” Also, “People should be able to display whatever they want on their lawn.”
6. Get It Off My Lawn!
Does this happen where you live? Do you ever wake up one morning to suddenly discover you supposedly support this candidate or that ballot measure?
“I have no problem with political signs on my neighbor’s lawn,” wrote a Middletown Patch reader who used the angry face emoji. “When they put one on my lawn, without my approval, I have a big problem with that! I have no idea why they think it is OK to walk on my property and put up a huge sign on my lawn! Unacceptable.”
Some people consider them an eyesore.
Actually, a Newark (California) Patch reader’s exact word was “trashy.”
“The whole world does NOT need to know [your] political preference,” the person wrote, using the eyeroll emoji.
Other Patch readers said that when it comes to political signs, less is more.
“I find them annoying if there are too many,” a Lansdale Patch reader said. “One or two are fine, but some people don’t know when to stop. And I hate the huge ones!”
“Not on my lawn!” a Concord Patch reader said. “People can’t seem to remember to pick them up after voting is done, either. That drives me insane.”
About that …
7. When It’s Over, It’s Over
Political signs are OK during the run-up to an election,“but once it’s over, it would be nice” if people retired them, a Joliet Patch reader said.
“Yes, people are allowed to put up signs supporting whoever they wish to support,” a Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Patch reader wrote, reminding people that the law in her state requires that political signs be removed within 10 days of the election. “Otherwise,” she pointed out, the borough or township will remove it for you and issue a fine.”
“I really don’t care for a short political season for the yard sign,” a Berkeley Township Patch reader commented. “However, these flag-waving people that hang their political signage 24/7 365 days a year should be stopped.”
A Shirley-Mastic (New York) Patch reader doesn’t mind if people stake political signs on their own property, but said,“ it’s the responsibility of each campaign to clean up their signs after the elections take place.”
If they don’t, the reader continued, “they should be held responsible monetarily.”
About Block Talk
Block Talk is a regular Patch feature offering real-world advice from readers on how to resolve everyday neighborhood problems. If you have a neighborhood etiquette question or problem you’d like for us to consider, email [email protected], with Block Talk as the subject line.
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Posted Thu, Oct 13, 2022 at 2:10 pm ET|Updated Thu, Oct 13, 2022 at 2:11 pm ET