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Can You Read the Signs?

The municipal election is here and campaign signs are once again lining the streets of Toronto.

Green sign on grass
Election Sign in Toronto neighbourhood. (Georgina Parker/On The Record)

With the 2022 Toronto municipal election quickly approaching, colourful election signs are flooding the city, boosting the names of candidates running for mayor, city councillor, or school board trustee.

But are signs actually an effective campaign strategy?

“Signs are as old as democracy,” said Alex Marland, head of the political science department at Memorial University. “In Pompei, they’ve done excavations and found signs saying vote for so and so. Voters say they don’t like the signs. However, it makes them aware there is an election going on.”

Vincent Raynauld, associate communications professor at Emerson College, says that lawn signs were used to raise awareness for political candidates before the era of social media. 

Social media reach can be effective for those who have a large following, however, the lesser known candidates may not be able to get traction relative to more established names.

“Many people think lawn signs are outdated,” said Raynauld. However, Raynauld continued, “They can have several uses to build awareness for their campaign candidates. It’s especially important for independent candidates who may not be well known in the community.”

Making effective signs isn’t as easy as just sticking a name across a board in giant font. From placement location to the size and colour, there is a lot of strategy that goes into making campaign signs. 

Candidates who are campaigning during wintertime may “use vivid colours to draw people’s attention,” said Raynauld. “In the summer, [candidates may] use more neutral colours, like black and white, to get public attention when they are walking around.”

When the election is over, the signs must come down. The City of Toronto says candidates must remove election signs within 72 hours of the Oct. 24 election

Reporter, On The Record, Fall 2022.

Copy Editor, On The Record, Fall 2022.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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