LACONIA — Whether they won or lost, candidates have just one week to pull their campaign signs from state roads and highways. And since both Republicans and Democrats ran vigorous campaigns, there are lot and lots of signs to collect.
State law requires campaign to be removed from public land by the second Friday after the election, which is this case is next Friday, Nov. 16.
“Some campaigns are very good about picking up their signs, but most aren’t,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton.
Random observations in and around Laconia showed there were fewer signs on Wednesday than there were the day before, which was Election Day.
Some candidates don’t waste any time taking down their signs. For example, state House candidate Charlie St. Clair said as soon as the polls closed Tuesday at 7 p.m., he started collecting the 100 signs he had put up. His opponent, Steve Whalley, meanwhile, was seen removing his signs on Wednesday.
Boynton said DOT lets campaign signs be placed alongside state highways so long as they don’t create a safety hazard. There are, however, some places, he said, where the agency does not allow any signs, like the Alton traffic circle where DOT crews removed signs on Monday.
Signs that remain after next Friday will be collected by DOT crews as their other work permits, Boynton said. He said the signs are brought to the nearest DOT patrol shed where they are kept for a time so campaigns or candidates can reclaim them. If they are not picked up after a length of time they are thrown away.
Laconia Public Works Director Wes Anderson said city ordinance prohibits signs within the right of way of any city street or state highway which the city is responsible for maintaining. He said city DPW workers have regularly been removing signs that were placed on the grassy areas between the outer edge of a sidewalk and the curb of the street, or– where there is no sidewalk – signs that are closer to the road than utility poles.
“Most candidates follow the rules,” Anderson said. For those who don't, their signs are taken to the DPW facility on Bisson Avenue, where they are kept for two weeks, and then thrown away. “We’ve go about 20 to 25 signs here right now,” said Anderson.
The rules do not affect signs that are on private property. Only property owners are allowed to remove those signs.
This campaign season has meant brisk business for campaign sign makers.
Production at Big Daddy’s Signs in Laconia reached a peak of 6,000 to 7,000 signs a week, according to owner Steve Zwicker.
“Business was a lot stronger” for this campaign, Zwicker said. “The more people are upset, the more signs.” Zwicker said his firm’s biggest orders were for the Massachusetts state ballot measure calling for a limit on the number of patients assigned to nurses. “We made thousands and thousands of signs for that issue,” Zwicker said.
At one point the company, which moved from Florida to the O’Shea Industrial Park in 2014 and produces signs for campaigns all over the country, was receiving semi-tractor trailer loads containing 220,000 to 330,000 square feet of rolled corrugated plastic every week in order to keep up with the demand, Zwicker said.
Zwicker said more and more candidates are using signs as part of a multimedia approach to getting their name in front of the public. “It’s recognition. If you drive by signs with a candidates name on them it has an impact on name recognition,” said.
Now that the election is over, business for sign makers will slow down, but not dry up.
“Every month there’s an election somewhere,” Zwicker said.