The Times West Virginian

November 3, 2012

Leave those legal political yard signs alone, but remove them after election

Times West Virginian

— We’re sure you’ve seen them.

They dot yards in most neighborhoods. They line the public roadways you travel to get to school or work each day. They might even be something you’ve put up in support of your candidate of choice.

Or maybe you haven’t seen them, since local officials have noted reports of political yard signs being stolen.

It’s an issue that affects both parties.

Andrew Sabak, chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, said he’s heard complaints from some candidates that their signs have been disappearing, and Belinda Biafore, Democratic Party county chairwoman, said that even though she isn’t aware of widespread instances of Democratic signs being stolen, some candidates have report­ed issues.

Sabak said that because political yard signs are seen as any other form of advertising, with the purpose of the signs being to raise a candidate’s profile and public recognition, steal­ing the signs is intended to lower that profile and make the candidate look less support­ed.

“I’m sure people who don’t really understand the process ... probably think, ‘He’s running against my friend; I’m going to make his sign disappear,’” Biafore added.

Of course, disappearing signs doesn’t necessary mean they’re being stolen.

As with anything, there are rules regarding the placement of political signs, and at its garage, the West Virginia Division of Highways keeps a stack of signs that have been removed from places they shouldn’t have been. But as long as signs are in a person’s yard or at least 20 feet from the center line of a roadway and not obstructing the view of oncoming traffic, they’re well within those rules.

We are disappointed when we hear reports of political signs being stolen. When you think of the time, energy and money candidates put into making sure their signs are out, it’s discouraging to realize there are people in Marion County who have so little respect for freedom of speech and the right to vote.

So our plea is simple: Just leave the signs alone.

“I always tell people that signs don’t vote,” Biafore said. Whether a candidate has 10, 100 or 1,000 signs, “I don’t think it makes a difference,” so removing those signs probably won’t have an impact on the race.

“(When you steal signs), what you are doing is violating the moral concept of civility in an election,” Sabak said. “We have to be sure that political campaigns and attitudes are respected, and this undermines that possibility.”

It not only undermines it, but stealing political yard signs is something that’s against the law. In fact, stealing any signs at all can result in a charge of petit larceny, which is a misdemeanor, and if signs are being taken off private property, trespassing charges might also apply.

So again, we say just leave the political yard signs alone.

Until Wednesday, that is. While we certainly do not approve of the stealing of political signs, we hope that once the election is over — and regardless of the outcome — candidates will be swift in taking down the signs they have placed throughout the county.

But with just two days left before Election Day, we have to keep courtesy in mind. There might be a lot of political signs, and they might be for a candidate or issue you don’t personally support, but if the signs have been placed legally, leave them there.