Signing off: Former BOE candidate questions whether lawn signs are a worthwhile campaign strategy

With his Facebook page, No Lawn Signs in Moorestown, Matt Kane hopes to open a public conversation on the topic.

When resident Matt Kane started the Facebook page No Lawn Signs in Moorestown, he wasn’t sure how people would react or interpret it, he just knew he wanted to start a conversation.

He was inspired by a conversation he had some time ago with his neighbors about all of the political signs they saw in town. Once he decided to run for a spot on his school district’s board of education, the page seemed like it could spark an interesting experiment.

“I was like, hey, this might be a fun idea if anybody’s interested in trying this for school board elections this year,” said Kane. “I made the page as a way to put it out there and see if anybody was interested.”

He describes initial reactions to the page as “typical” for any new Facebook page, with people commenting their thoughts one way or another and drawing their own interpretations of its less-than-specific title.

Kane would like to specify he is talking about signs advertising candidates for the upcoming BOE election and not graduation announcements or business signs.

Although the banner photo for the page reads “keep Moorestown beautiful,” Kane says the page isn’t necessarily about lawn signs being an eyesore, rather, he questions their effectiveness and wonders whether money could be better spent while campaigning.

“I wondered if lawn signs actually work, so I did some googling, and according to a lot of the data, they really don’t or very, very marginally. Another thing for me is that lawn signs cost a lot of money and I always thought, why spend money on lawn signs, leave that money for something good,” said Kane.

He refers to a Washington Post article that found lawn signs account for only a 1.7 percentage-point boost during a campaign.

“If you’re going to invest in lawn signs you should know whether or not they work, and I know for me, I wouldn’t be swayed by one,” said Kane.

In place of more lawn signs, Kane would like to see more opportunities for people to get to know the candidates running for BOE positions and hear about why they are running.

“Looking at last year’s election cycle, we had one open ‘meet the candidates’ night. I’d like to have more of those,” said Kane.

He believes allowing more time for people to ask more questions in a public forum, and spending energy drawing more people to these public forums, would be a more worthwhile venture than distributing signs that don’t tell you anything about the candidate other than their name.

Kane says he would like to create something like a Facebook or Google Forms page where the public could ask questions of candidates and have them answer in a public forum like an online version of a meet the candidates night.

“For me it’s about collaborating and working together so that people can make up their own minds about who to vote for,” said Kane. 

Despite his hopes for a way the campaign could be run, if Kane’s fellow campaigners don’t get on board with his idea and all put out lawn signs, he admits he probably will as well to have an equal shot at a spot on the board.

At the moment, the other candidates seem to be split on the idea.

BOE candidate Maurice Weeks used lawn signs during an unsuccessful campaign in 2014, and went without for another run in 2016, this one successful.

“Currently I do not plan to use political signs as I think there are more effective ways to make people aware of my candidacy and the issues I feel strongly about,” said Weeks.

Candidate Sandra Alberti offered a similar sentiment about the effectiveness of lawn signs.

“I would certainly consider going without lawn signs. I don’t think lawn signs are effective means of communicating one’s candidacy. There are certainly better ways, like the town hall forum, for community members to find out more about the candidates,” said Alberti.

Candidate Mark Villanueva, on the other hand, believes these signs serve a real purpose during a campaign and offers a counterpoint to Kane’s argument.

“I appreciate Mr. Kane’s position, and while he hasn’t contacted me directly about it, I’ve seen some posts on social media and I do not support his idea. It is immaterial whether political lawn signs impact voters. The value in lawn signs is this: our community should be encouraged – not discouraged – to show support for candidates at all levels,” said Villanueva.

If you would like to visit the page and join the conversation, search the name, “No Lawn Signs in Moorestown” on Facebook.

Editors note: Since being interviewed for this article, Kane has withdrawn his candidacy for a spot on the Moorestown Board of Education.