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Posters, Posters, Posters – everywhere!

February 13, 2016 2 comments

Did you wake up one day earlier this month, open your curtains and be confronted by a general election candidate staring in your window? Okay, not an actual candidate but maybe a poster of them hanging off a lamppost outside your house? The answer for many is yes.

Go outside your door since last week and it is a sea of posters that confronts you. Posters, Posters, Posters. Everywhere. Most people hate them but for this political anorak they are a wonder!

 

Election Called

Being part of a political family means I’ve been involved in a fair few election campaigns and poster battles. As Enda stood up in the Dáil to tell us the other week he was off to meet Michael D in the Park, I got a text from my Mum saying “Election called, your country needs you”! Since I was on holidays I wasn’t able to answer this initial Ireland’s call and for the first time since 2002, I wasn’t up a lamppost on the day the election was called.

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Arriving back into Dublin later in the week, I was like a kid venturing out into freshly fallen snow, looking in wonder at the election posters on the lampposts as I came from the airport in Dublin Bay North, into Dublin Central and into Dublin South Central. I tried to take in the picture perfect poster blitz on the journey!

 

From cardboard to corriboard

I’m old enough to remember the old school election poster which was printed on stiff cardboard, generally with just the names of the candidates for that party. A heavy spell of rain and these would soon be on the ground.

 

Nowadays the posters are printed on corriboard and cost around €6 a pop. In a previous election one party had the corrugations vertical and with a heavy gust of wind they would concertina dropping to the ground. Stability is the key for the election poster and horizontal is more stable! The name and address of both the printer and publisher of the poster must be visible – usually in the smallest of fonts!

 

They are printed with holes pre-punched top, bottom and middle on large posters to allow cable ties to be strung through to fix to lampposts. I favour a back-to-back poster arrangement but some candidates have posters with writing on the back with their party name or candidate name.

 

Candidates typically will put up maybe up to 1,000 large posters and maybe a couple of hundred smaller posters later in the campaign – often diamond shaped posters – hence the larger number up on the lampposts at present and the race to get them in good positions once the election is called as space is limited.

 

The rules

The relevant local authority polices the posters during the election. They shouldn’t go up before the election is called, although a number of candidates jump the gun at every election including #ge16. Rules stipulate that they cannot be erected on traffic lights, bridge parapets, and on poles with traffic signs. They should be placed more than 2.5m above ground. There is also no canvassing within 50m of any polling station on polling day so having a poster up directly outside can often break this rule. If you go for a quick walk around your area, you will probably see each of these rules broken multiple times!

 

If posters were to be done away with the advertisers would likely welcome it, as candidates would likely end up taking out expensive billboard and newspaper adverts. Maybe people would go with some USA style small posters on their lawn rather than on lampposts.

 

 

Do posters work?

On the canvass there is a marked difference in reaction from the voter when an ordinary canvasser calls to the door and when the candidate does. The voter will often snap to attention as a candidate seemingly descends off the lamppost, to stride up and stand on their doorstep asking for a vote on election day.

 

If the election goes well, candidates can get elected on the first count but the majority under our single transferrable vote system of proportional representation get elected from transfers. Those number 2s, 3s, 4,s etc are vitally important.

 

Since 1999, the Irish ballot paper has photographs of each candidate with party logos added following the publication of the Electoral Amendment Act (2000).

 

The changing constituency boundaries also mean that posters give voters a good idea of who is running in their area. So basically each candidate is essentially marking their territory on lampposts!

 

Having branded your constituency with posters for weeks, candidates are hoping that it will help the voter to pick them out of a very busy ballot paper and help get them over the quota in the later counts.

 

 

 

 

Post-election poster removal

When election day is over the posters need to come down within seven days. There was one campaign I was involved in where some of our posters were removed by persons unknown ahead of polling day, only to magically re-appear more than a week after the election with some €150 fines to follow :(.

 

Losing candidates can’t take their posters down quick enough while some victorious candidates will affix a “Thanks” sign on their posters!

 

Certainly the winning candidates are more likely to leave their posters up as long as possible basking in the glory of a successful election campaign!

 

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