Sensible approach needed to reform election postering

28 January 2020

Labour’s general election candidate for Cork South Central, Ciara Kennedy, has said a sensible and practical approach is needed in order to reform the regulations around election postering:

“The argument over election posters has been in full swing again since the election was called. I agree that we should change our approach – but we have to do it properly and in a way that works best for the electorate.

“I don’t agree with the idea of a complete ban. Research has shown that banning election posters altogether results in poorer turnout and adds an extra advantage for incumbents, suffocating new challengers before they’ve had a chance to put their case to the people. I also think that groups who have advocated for a local poster ban should review their approach, as it doesn’t seem fair that some communities should have a more vibrant engagement with politics than others.

“Perhaps even more importantly, we have to consider how hard the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) fought to get candidate photos printed on ballot papers, as has been the case for every election since 1999. NALA led that campaign because of evidence that visual recognition cues like pictures help adults with lower literacy levels to engage with politics. The inclusion of photos on the ballot sheet also reduces confusion for voters when candidates have similar names. In this context, posters featuring the photos of election candidates are clearly very important.

“We do need to reduce our use of plastic and it’s fair enough that people want to see us showing how that can be done in our campaigning. Setting a limit on the number of posters that can be put up in a constituency, based on the geographical size and the number of registered voters, would be a better approach than an outright ban. We could also look at limiting the size and the volume of material that can be used in posters.

“Taking this approach would show leadership on the issue without damaging democracy. In fact, it would enhance it, as the limits would help to level the playing field between candidates. It would also eliminate the spectacle of stretches of roads featuring the same one or two faces on every pole while new candidates struggle to get a look-in.

“It is vital that we have this conversation early on after this election, not with mere weeks to go until polling day. This task could be carried out along with the other reforms by Labour’s proposed Electoral Commission. That’s the only way to show this issue the respect that it deserves,” concluded Ms Kennedy.

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