Political signs waning in mid-November
From Labor Day through early November, most busy roadsides and intersections are awash in political campaign signs.
The small placards emblazoned with a candidate’s name appear by the thousands as office seekers fight for name recognition and public awareness of their campaign efforts for the hundreds of political offices up for grabs.
But once the final votes were cast, it became time for those signs to go away. Many municipalities throughout Westmoreland County have ordinances requiring all evidence of the election season be removed, officials said.
“There are statutes,” Hempfield solicitor Scott Avolio said, noting the township mandates that all political signs be removed from public areas a month after an election.
Campaign signs can remain indefinitely on private property, and free-speech laws restrict towns from outright barring them, he said.
It’s up to local governments to create sign ordinances, and many have.
Hempfield, Ligonier, Lower Burrell and Penn Township are among local municipalities that have regulations for placement and removal of campaign signs.
Hempfield’s ordinance includes fines for violations, although enforcement has not been necessary, Avolio said.
“If we see a sign out there, we’ll call a candidate or a political party and tell them to get them. So, this isn’t an issue we need to address,” he said.
For candidates, campaign sign etiquette is something they learn on the fly.
County Commissioner-elect Sean Kertes recently completed his first run for office and said he quickly learned that gathering up campaign signs is an essential part of being a candidate.
As a successful candidate, Kertes said he purposely left some of his signs in place for a short time.
“If you win, tradition is to put a thank you on the signs and leave them up for about a week, but there’s not true policy,” Kertes said. “You kind of learn as you go, see what everyone else does and follow suit.”
Kertes said that at the start of his campaign he received some instruction from the county’s Republican committee about where he was allowed to install signs, and following the election received email reminders from GOP officials to remove them.
For many candidates, collecting signs is more than just cleanup work.
“They’re expensive, and many candidates want to reuse them for future elections,” said Rachel Shaw, chairwoman for the county’s Democratic Party Committee.
Shaw said Democrats conduct seminars for candidates early in the election season to discuss how and where political signs can be placed. The party also notifies candidates after the election that they are to remove their signs.
And for the candidates who don’t want to keep their signs, there are other issues.
“The toughest part is finding someone to recycle them,” Shaw said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .