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Signs of Dirty Campaigning

Signs of Dirty Campaigning  

By Karen Hoopes

I had to conclude that it wasn’t the wind.  I stood there staring at the gaping hole where our 8×4 ft County Commissioner campaign sign once hung.  Like a hunter I knelt and surveyed the landscape looking for clues.  The ground revealed no evidence of natural cause.  I saw no pressed blades of grass, no tracks or foot prints, and no remnants of the corrugated, royal blue material that was once our sign.  The sign was gone without a trace. Odd, I thought, that the signs of the opposing political party candidates located nearby remained intact.  This was a targeted attack. It was theft. I was sure of it.

My anger flared as I thought of the planning, time and expense as well as the personal sacrifice involved in constructing that sign. First we raised the $250 in-kind donation, then we called to get the land owner’s permission to place the sign on her property, then we carefully planned the construction of a sturdy sign mount , identified the materials needed, purchased the construction materials, assembled the frame and recruited volunteers to install the sign.

I remembered the five strong men who had volunteered one weekend sacrificing precious hours away from their families and favorite recreation to support our cause and further our message.  I had watched the men work as the blazing sun overhead beat down on them and parched the earth.  The men pounded the posts into the ground using a heavy fence post driver taking turns as they tired.  As beads of sweat collected on their foreheads, they carefully erected and centered the sign in the frame reinforcing the four corners with strong zip ties and taking care to ensure that the sign would be sturdy enough to withstand the wind.  At last the men had finished. They stepped back to admire their handy work.   They were proud of a job well done.

Now the sign was nowhere to be found. It would be my responsibility to tell these men the truth—that the sign they had worked so hard to install had disappeared and needed to be replaced. I could imagine their level of disappointment.

Are these thefts a preview—a sign of the dirty campaign tactics that lie ahead after the Primary?

Campaign sign stealers and vandals beware. Stealing a campaign sign is not only mean-spirited and dirty campaigning, it is a crime. Stealing a campaign sign can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. The crime is called interference in an election and thus is a federal offense. If the sign is damaged, misdemeanor vandalism charges may also apply.  Trespassing charges may also apply if the sign is located on private property where trespassing is not permitted.

The next time you drive by a campaign sign, take a long, hard look at it. A candidate somewhere spent a lot of time and money trying to reach out to you to share his/her message.  Then read the candidate’s flyers before tossing them into the trash can, listen to those annoying robo calls, visit the candidate’s website and be friendly to candidates at the door. They are working hard to connect with you.  Work to connect with them and you will become an informed voter.

Through all of this, I have learned that while thieves can steal our signs, they can’t silence our message.