Remember: Political signs are not biodegradable

Do signs that remain up long after an election have an effect on what visitors think of NH?


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First impressions are vital to the success of any place’s efforts to attract visitors. Clever welcoming signs, sufficient directional signage, as well as clean and attractive roadsides contribute to presenting a welcoming image.

Lady Bird Johnson’s effort as first lady to beautify America’s roadsides during the 1960s, appears to have had a positive effect in New Hampshire — with one major exception.

Every two to four years, we experience a wonderful American phenomenon called the political primary, followed shortly thereafter by elections. This is the point at which the quality of our roadsides goes to hell in a handbasket.

In an effort to increase familiarity with candidates for everything from local school boards to the oval office, supporters pepper the landscape with signage. Those signs, which range in size from 24-by-18 inches to the dimensions of a small panel truck, are planted along roadsides and in front yards from Plaistow to Pittsburg.

This year has been no different. This column will not debate the effectiveness of such signage. Regardless of what is said here, political supporters will spend $2 to $20 (or more) to promote the candidacy of their favorite son or daughter. According to the journal, “Electoral Studies,” those signs will increase a candidate’s voting share by an average of 1.7 percent, a potential game-changer.

As a tourism specialist and a New Hampshire resident, my concern is not with the presence of signage before the election, I am, however, fretful about the presence of those signs — whether for the winners or runners-up — that remain in place until after the snow flies.

I ask myself: Can I, as a resident or visitor to a community, drive around and remedy this situation? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding NO. Be forewarned fellow curmudgeons: only the candidate, her/his fiscal agent, another representative of the campaign staff or the property owner can remove those eyesores. The law states that signs must be removed by the second Friday following the actual election. Unfortunately, the cryptic wording of this regulation protects those who were eliminated during the primary round.

Sadly, one must conclude that these unfortunate circumstances are here to stay. Therefore, allow me to fire the first salvo. I will not patronize any business, nor visit any community, that leaves these ragged, dirty eyesores in place beyond the legal time limit. I encourage readers to act similarly.

Mark Okrant, an educator, researcher, consultant and mystery writer, is professor emeritus of tourism management at Plymouth State University. This article originally appeared on InDepthNH.org.

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