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Lawn Signs: The Rules and How Branford's Party Leaders Prepare for Battle

A look at the local political propaganda both camps are deploying.

Last Thursday in a New Haven County Patch-wide poll, 60 percent of readers thought political candidates should not use lawn signs.

Within hours of the poll running on the site, Branford Patch received and e-mail from a reader complaining that a campaign sign was obstructing the view of traffic at the corner of Harbor Street and Stannard Avenue. The reader asked not be named.

The 4-foot by 8-foot sign is for the republican ticket of for First Selectman and for Second Selectman. The sign is on McConnell’s front yard.

Republican Town Committee Chair Ray Ingraham who is also the party’s campaign manager, said he was unaware of the sign being an issue but later called back to state that he moved the sign as he too thought it could have been obstructing the view for drivers.

Though they won’t be agreeing on much through the election season, both Ingrham and the democrat campaign manager John Murphy agree that safety is the most important thing when it comes to placing lawn signs.

“We don’t want anyone getting hurt over these things,” Murphy commented.

However, when it comes to the use of signs, the two camps couldn’t be more different in their plan of attack.

With McConnell being a relative unknown, Ingraham said the more than 225 campaign signs that are due to hit lawns this week will be vital to getting people to know the hopeful first selectman’s name.

“Hopefully when those signs hit,” he said, “people will be asking who’s Joy?”

Of the campaign strategy, which includes the installation of one, $2,000-billboard above the Cosgrove property on North Main Street, Ingraham said, “Letting them know the name is part of it; knocking door to door is part of it.”

All told, Ingraham said the campaign plans to spend, $200 on 18, hand-painted 4-foot by 8-foot lawn signs, $400 on four, 4-foot by 8-foot printed lawn signs and $1,000 on 200, 11-inch by 17-inch printed signs. A cost savings he noted this campaign, will be using paint from people’s basements to make the lawn signs.

“I guess we’re no more of an underdog than we were in 2009," he said. "It’s an active RTC who’s out there and willing to paint. We’ve got three or four members that have been painting signs for the last three or four weeks."

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, just before meeting with the other DTC members to discuss the campaign spending on signs, Murphy was less than enthused to talk about his party's political signs. “We’re still figuring out if we’re buying them, quite frankly,” he said.

After the meeting, he e-mailed a PDF (see attached) of the democrat ticket lawn sign, for First Selectman and . He was remised to know his party had agreed to go with the sings.

“Signs don’t vote,” he said. “I’m not a big proponent of signs. I don’t believe in them. I believe in voter contact.”

Despite his personal disdain for the lawn signs, inevitably, he said, a DTC member will place one on his home lawn and he won’t move it he said. “I’ll come home and find one,” he laughed, “and that’s the way it works.”

When asked if he would view signs differently if his party was not in the majority, Murphy commented, “Every campaign is different. If you are working with someone unknown, you may want to get the word out that way.”

Murphy is currently the Political Director for Connecticut Citizen Action Group and said he counts his latest accomplishment as a testament to why he doesn’t believe in political signs. In Guilford, he said, he secured a 70.5 percent “yes vote” to bond $90 million for a new high school. “All without a lawn sign,” he quipped.

Whether or not you like lawn signs, so long as they are not obstructing view, they are perfectly legal says Town Planner Shirley Rasmussen.

“With any political signs during election seasons, we don’t enforce any regulations pertaining to those types of signs because it’s a matter of free speech and first amendment rights,” she said.

Even though there are laws on the books about general signage, they are not applied, she said, to political signs during the months leading up to an election. “People get real touchy,” she added, “it’s campaign season.”

Rasmussen said the deluge of signs is once every year or two so the town “kind of just ignores them” until the race is over. She added, however, that the town still enforces any safety issues with signs should they arise.

According to Zoning Enforcement Officer Laura Magaraci, she has never had to remove any political signs on public property.

“It’s pretty rare,” commented Rasmussen. “For the most part, people are pretty considerate. Someotimes campaign workers get carried away a little bit but it’s not a common problem.”

As far as state property is concerned, political signs are not allowed on state Department cf Transportation property, stated organization Spokesman Kevin Nursick. "As time, priority and responsibilities allow, we will remove them," he commented. "We will take hasty action if they signs cause a safety hazard."

During a busy campaign season when the politicos are in full propaganda mode, Nursick said the CTDOT will remove anywhere from hundreds to thousands of signs. He was quick to add that the parties "are equal opportunity offenders."

"After we remove them," he said, "we will make some effort to contact the owners to pick them up from our facilities. If they don't come in 30 days, we throw them out."

As a general rule, he said, campaigners should note that anywhere from six inches to 20 feet off the footprint of a road is state property. All islands on state roads as well as highway on and off ramps are state property.

Noting that the placement of signs along highways and highly traveled roads is both dangerous to the placers and the workers who have to remove them, Nursick added, "I think they're are a few rouge personnel who place these signs and not the campaigns."

State statue also says no political signs can be placed inside of 75 feet of a polling place.*

According to the comment from Ingraham (see below), Patch misunderstood his original comment on the placement of signs at polling centers so it has been removed.

Jennifer Coombs October 10, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Joy can put a sign (any size) on my lawn any time!!! VOTE FOR JOY!!!!
Ray Ingraham October 10, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Thanks Jennifer and we will be sure to put them in the right spot. We did have to move a couple where folks didn't realize the rules. Note the signs being put out by Branford republicans are not 'Propaganda' they simply list the names of candidates. Most people consider propaganda as lies of omission. Unless leaving your competitors name off is a omission. On the 75 foot rule, when speaking on a rule being overlooked it was on the placing of signs on public property on election day (polls). The moderators at all polls have been very diligent to be sure we do not campaign nor place signs within 75 feet. Ray ingraham Branford RTC Chairman

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