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Removing Electoral Detritus

Some campaign signs along a public right of way in San Diego.
Tom Fudge
Some campaign signs along a public right of way in San Diego.

An election is a flurry of dreams dashed or realized. While the spirit of the season is passed, the litter of political yards signs remains. And it will remain until somebody complains and the signs get removed and tossed in the trash… hopefully by conscientious campaign workers.

Complaints about campaign trash arise during and after every election. The tricky thing about dealing with unwanted political signs is nobody seems to know what the rules are. Either that, or the rules simply get ignored.

I spoke with more than one San Diego political operative and they all seemed very mixed up about the rules for yard signs. In fact, those rules change from one jurisdiction to the next. Deborah Seiler, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, couldn’t give me any broad parameters for what’s allowed, though she did give me some numbers to call.


Some people told me you had to take down political signs in San Diego within 30 days following an election. But I couldn’t find that requirement in the city’s code for political signs.

The city rules clearly say that signs cannot be placed on public property or on public rights of way. But just because that’s the law, it doesn’t mean anyone follows the law or that authorities take the time to enforce it. Any motorist will tell you that busy streets are lined with political signs around election time.

Political signs will always get left behind. The rules neglected. But I see those signs as an emblem of the fall season, sort of like the leaves that fall from the trees and scatter on the ground. In a way they are a sign of death. But their life will be renewed when the spring of another election season comes our way.