Lawn signs touting local and statewide candidates are in full bloom along highways, street corners and other public spaces. It's the sign of the season. And despite legal restrictions, the markers can sprout invasively.
Campaigns hope voters see them as a signal of the community's support for the candidate or issue. But repeat exposure can rub some the wrong way.
"They just mushroom," said Elizabeth Lessner, a central Ohio restaurateur. "It used to be they put one sign on the corner, and now there's 50."
Lessner is one of the Columbus Sign Ninjas, a group that sprang up in the perennial battleground state to take down campaign clutter from public spaces.
State and local sign laws can vary. Ohio, like other states, prohibits such advertising from being placed in the public right of way — which would include interstates and state routes. Officials don't want signs to obstruct drivers' views or present safety hazards.
The ninja members use social media to report signs and occasionally call out campaigns seen as big offenders. Some candidates have apologized on the group's Facebook page, which boasts nearly 300 members, for their sign placement.
Karen Thomas, a Columbus resident and ninja member, has been uprooting stray signs since 2008. Her first take came after she passed multiple markers near the interstate exit for a mall. Thomas recalled, "If I want them to go away, I'm going to have to pull over and pick them up."
So she did. And she continues to snatch signs when she runs errands, carefully avoiding vehicles that whiz by her.
"I don't lollygag," said Thomas, a corporate financial consultant.
It's not just residents who get irked by the signage.
In Providence, Rhode Island, large signs for his opponent led to a complaint from Republican mayoral candidate Dan Harrop. Harrop told the city solicitor's office this week that signs for independent candidate Buddy Cianci far exceed the size allowed by city ordinances. The city agreed and cited at least one homeowner.
Signs are a fast, cheap and easy way to grow name recognition and increase a candidate's visibility in a neighborhood. They've been around since the infancy of the country's democracy, said Benjamin Bates, a professor of communication studies at Ohio University.
Candidates and their supporters will place signs near the roadways because they hope more voters will see them.
"It's sort of the principle that any publicity is good publicity," Bates said.
Ben Donahower, a Pennsylvania-based political consultant who sells lawn signs, said he advises campaigns to place signs on private property. That means supporters have names and faces.
"Any candidate can go out and spend a day putting out a bunch of signs along a highway," Donahower said. "It's a different scenario to talk to somebody and say, 'Do I have your vote?' They say yes. 'Can I put a yard sign out in your yard?' They say yes."
Still, even if irritatingly placed in a public space, Bates said, "you'll definitely remember the name on the sign. Or at least that's what the campaign hopes."
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new church essay says Mormon church founder Joseph Smith had a teenage bride and was married to other men's wives during the early days of the faith when polygamy was practiced.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says most of Smith's wives were adults, but one was a 14-year-old girl who was the daughter of Smith's close friends. Research shows the marriage might not have involved sex.
It's the first time the church has officially acknowledged those facts, although it has not denied previous reports by historians.
Church officials note that while inappropriate by today's standards, marriage among teenage girls was legal and somewhat common during that time.
The essay posted this week is part of a recent push by the Salt Lake City-based religion to explain or expand on sensitive issues within the faith, including its past ban on black men in the lay clergy.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — The attorney for the victim of a sex offender says any assets and inheritance the man has may be seized to settle a $1.8 million civil judgment stemming from five years of abuse.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Someone drove up a ramp near the Oklahoma Capitol steps overnight and into a disputed granite monument of the Ten Commandments, smashing it to pieces in an apparent act of vandalism, authorities said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. George Brown said the person abandoned the car and fled the scene after destroying the monument Thursday night, and that investigators are searching the sedan for clues. He said he didn't know if there were any witnesses, but that investigators are reviewing security video.
The 6-foot-tall monument was erected in 2012 with the blessing of Oklahoma's conservative Legislature. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has been suing to have it removed, arguing that it violates the state constitution and could be seen as a state endorsement of a religion.
"We consider this an act of violence against the state of Oklahoma," said Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze, of Broken Arrow, whose family spent nearly $10,000 having the monument erected. "We are obviously shocked and dismayed, but we're not discouraged," he said, vowing to have it rebuilt.
Gov. Mary Fallin called it an "appalling" act of vandalism and volunteered to help raise private funds to restore it.
The ACLU sued on behalf of a Norman minister and others who allege the monument's location violates the state constitution's ban on using public property to support "any sect, church, denomination or system of religion."
A judge ruled last month that the monument does not violate the state constitution, and ACLU attorneys filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Ryan Kiesel, the ACLU of Oklahoma's executive director, said he and his clients are "outraged" that the monument was vandalized.
"To see the Ten Commandments desecrated by vandals is highly offensive to them as people of faith," Kiesel said.
The monument's placement has led others to seek their own on the Capitol grounds, including a satanic group that earlier this year unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan. Other requests have been made from a Hindu leader in Nevada and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.