Almost every day, I am seeing reports that election posters are being taken off lamp posts …stolen. To some extent, all parties are victims of this crime. It happens mostly when a Party crosses into alien territory or puts up a poster in “shared space”.
But it has to be said that a lot of stolen SDLP and Sinn Féin posters end up on loyalist bonfires in July.
But the removal of posters…the theft of posters …is an attack on the democratic process and it can be a form of intimidation. There is possibly some evidence that some of it is just hooliganism.
Either way, we have legislation to protect the Environment. Posters can not be put up “too early”. And political parties can be fined if they leave them up too long after an Election. While most political parties factor in that posters will be stolen…there seems to be a convention that there is two harvests of posters….the early ones will be removed but a second crop will appear within a few days of an Election.
I think PSNI need to be more pro-active. The Democratic Process deserves more support. If we believe that even those who disagree with us are doing a public service by putting their names and faces forward, then their posters deserve more protection.
There is maybe another side. There is such a thing as over-doing it. Too many posters can be a very unsubtle way of marking tribal territory and effectively intimidating.
Normally, only two political parties put up posters in our small village. Last night, many residents were surprised that one Party had put up a lot of posters. The general opinion was “thats overdoing things”. The disapproval was pretty universal but also broad-based.
So this morning most have been taken down…stolen. I honestly dont think the motivation was “political”. It just made the village look tacky. Hmmmm…feel free to call us “snobs”.
But I think reasonable people would say that there should be a balance to these things. Limited number of posters, limited time to display them and their protection under the law.
Often it is politically motivated. E.g. Alliance party people taking down SDLP posters in an area to stop SDLP winning votes from Alliance.
Surely the nice people from Alliance would not do such a thing?
Do you think that posters alter the number of votes? Are they a signal of how hardworking/organized a candidate is likely to be?
Thats a good question and I am not sure there is a single answer. If I go back 40 years, there was a running joke that the Workers Party had more posters than votes.
I think there can be over-kill. And I think that can backfire. Certainly I noticed today that SF had saturated one small area with posters…now I am not making a specifically anti-Sinn Féin point here as I suppose other Parties are over-doing it also. But I noticed, without any prompting from me that my wife said “thats just too much”.
I dont think that a saturation of posters is in itelf …intimidating…but it CAN be.
And I would think counter-productive. For example, a few posters at a roundabout or at a main road is entirely reasonable but I think a political party runs a risk of antagonising voters if it does every lamp post.
I think at every election time, we have conversations where a friend laments the fact that he looks out the window every morning and sees a DUP or SF poster…or indeed SDLP, Alliance, UUP etc. It is just good manners to avoid offending anyone, rather like parking a car that is intrusive.
I think a worrying development is the billboards and banners etc.
We have managed to get rid of some of the worst excesses of malpractice…personation was rampant in 1970s. But there was always acceptance that Mr Smith deceased would vote in a certain way but less tolerance that Mrs Smith deceased had her vote stolen by another Party.
There are rules about canvassing withing polling station precincts and about having election material on or too close to a polling station and my observation last year….i was in seventeen polling stations in twelve constituences last May ….was that at least one Party was on the very edge of the rules, if not over the edge.
The relationship between voters and politicians is strange. For example, I do not think this village has been canvassed by any Party this year.
Although a lot ofhouseholders do not answer the door, there is a surprising number of people who wont vote for a candidate who hasnt bothered to knock their door.
I dont think I have answered your question but I do think we are stuck in our ways with election campaigns. Does Internet make a difference.
I have always said that if I was a SDLP candidate in an unwinnable seat, I would not canvas. I would take out an advert in local paper and say “look theres an election on. SDLP do not usually do well here. I wont disturb you watching football and Coronation Street…but if youre interested heres a round up of what I believe….”
I have often thought that would be more effective than direct canvassing.
@graham. On the effect of election posters. I had a conversation Friday night with my brother-in-law who said he voted Alliance because he didn’t think the SDLP had a chance of winning a seat. He knows nothing about the quotas, past election results and couldn’t tell you who the current mla’s are. The common voter lives in the realm of perception. Not putting them up looks like defeat if you aren’t running away with it.
Thats a very good point Zig. Perception is a big factor. One thing I like about this campaign is that SDLP is very visible. In fairness to Alasdair, he could not have been as visible.
But all politics is local. The coverage of local papers in Lisburn, Portadown, Newry, Larne etc might be as important as the Bbc and utv.