Stealing political signs is not a new phenomenon, but it seems particularly rampant in this 2004 election. Dozens of stories have been reported about both stolen and vandalized signs from both political parties.
“I've have been receiving large numbers of complaints from committee members and volunteers about large numbers of Kerry-Edwards Yard signs disappearing or being vandalized, and bumper stickers disappearing off cars. Lots of people have had repeated thefts. Also, when one sign disappears, usually others have disappeared on the street as well,” said Scott Surovell, co-chair of the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee.
“This past week, the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee purchased 750 more yard signs so our Democrats can continue to show their support for the Democratic ticket to their neighbors. We've also been encouraging our members to respect their neighbors' political views no matter how strongly they feel.”
LaDonna Curzon, an active volunteer and strong supporter of Lisa Marie Cheney, said, “The first time I put up a Lisa Marie Cheney yard sign in my front lawn, I discovered the next morning that it had been ripped into about 20 little pieces and scattered in my yard. I picked up the pieces and my husband, the frugal one, taped it back together and proudly planted it back into our front lawn and sure enough, it has stood the test of time .... In my neighborhood, if you count the political signs, we are in the minority by about 12 to 3. We call it KerryLand. We showed it to Lisa and she was amazed. We still have it and will give it to her on Election Night ... battered but not yet out for the count. I also have seen with my own eyes dozens of LMC signs that have had the staples removed and the signs have slipped down to the bottom of the stake, yet all the nearby Moran signs are left intact. I've planted yard signs before and it takes a lot of time and energy and it's truly frustrating to see someone trashing your efforts. Other Congressional Districts nearby don't have nearly the amount of these type of incidents than here in the VA-8 district. I've done the research.”
David Kennedy said that he’s been distributing Bush-Cheney signs and has had to replace some that were taken. This year they haven’t been putting Bush signs in the median because they don’t have to worry about name recognition. Kennedy did put one in his yard and thought it was taken this week, but realized that it had just been knocked over by the wind.
“I’m happy to let people know where I stand and I don’t have a problem with anybody else doing it on either side,” Kennedy said.
SUSAN BOSWELL-SEARS said that she had her “Redefeat Bush” bumper sticker stolen off her car.
“It was done most likely while I was attending class at George Mason University, but could have been while attending the Art on the Avenue in Old Town, or lastly in my Mount Vernon residence driveway. The sticker had been on there for several months so it was not something that was easy to just pull off. I'm hoping someone saw it and wanted it for their car. I think it's stooping rather low to remove something from another person's property just because you disagree with the message.”
She also said that another person she knows had her Kerry sign pulled up out of the ground in front of her house two weeks in a row. On the third week, at around the time that she suspected the sign was being pulled out she watched for the culprit. Soon, a jogger appeared, reached out and pulled out the sign. When she yelled out to him, he dropped the sign and continued on his jog.
Neighbors are getting very creative in finding ways to secure their signs. Jan Hamlin got so tired of her signs being stolen that she attached a large Kerry-Edwards sign right up against her house. Jane Brewster said that after her Kerry-Edwards sign was knocked over three times, they dug the hole deeper to keep the sign in place.
“Then, one day, it was stolen entirely from our front yard. We managed to get two more signs, one of which I put right by my front door. I wired the other sign to a large tree through a special hole I punched through the corner, so it couldn't be pulled out of the ground. I also double taped the sign to the wire posts, so it couldn't be slipped off,” Brewster said.
That lasted 10 days, and then someone tried to steal her Kerry-Edwards sign again.
“We got home and found the sign crumpled. If it hadn't been wired and taped, it would have been gone. This is a really disturbing way for people to be using their energy. If you want to see your candidate elected, work on his behalf in a positive way. Don't try to subvert the free speech rights of others. I thought that was the whole point of our democracy. You can't have a great deal of confidence in your candidate, if this is the level to which you are stooping.”
SIGN-MAKING HAS also risen or declined to a new level, depending on how one looks at the situation. After they stole the last sign Curzon put in her yard, she put out her own sign, saying, "In 2000, they tried to steal the election. Now they stole my Bush sign."
Peggy Cousins said that her neighbor has a sign reading, “You Can Steal My Sign, But You Can't Steal My Vote."
Hamlin has a new sign in her yard that says, “Notice sign thieves — You sneak around stealing Kerry-Edwards signs, but you cannot steal the election. Shame on you.”
Don Kraus took it one step further. After he had two yard signs stolen from his yard on Waterford Road, he put the third one up with a note attached to it that said, "Neighbor, do not steal this sign. It is private property. You are trespassing. And if you are close enough to read this you are stepping in dog poop."
Notes from a Cheney blog report that, “There is a ‘crew’ of Moran supporters removing and tearing down his opponents' yard signs on local highways. One of the group drives a navy blue Jeep Wrangler with a "Moran" bumper sticker. These miscreants were seen removing staples from signs and letting them fall to the ground.”
One Cheney supporter said, “There were a few hundred Cheney and Hurysz signs scattered across the Eighth CD. Most have been pulled down or damaged. Why? Wolf and Socas campaign signs have co-existed for weeks in the 10th CD [congressional district].”
Yet another supporter reports, “They are trashing Lisa Cheney's yard signs, posted in Alexandria. I saw them drive off Sunday morning. They just pull the staples out and let the signs fall to the ground.”
EVEN COMMITTEE CHAIRS don’t escape. Ginny Peters said she believes that the people or person who is stealing her signs knows that she is chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
“I have the same problem every year. For the four previous years I was chair of Mount Vernon. It is very interesting that I have three neighbors that I gave signs to and theirs are still standing. It is also very interesting that none of the Bush signs that have gone up in our neighborhood have been stolen. I had a call from a lady last night in Gum Springs who is very upset because someone stole her sign. She wants another as quickly as possible so her neighbors don't think that she has changed her mind and is not supporting the Kerry-Edwards team.”
Charles Dragonette ties the thefts to the debates, and said, “The ‘story’ is that, after each debate, when the Team got a boost, another sign would disappear. I take it as a backhanded comment on the Kerry-Edwards team's chances, even here in Virginia, if the Administration's supporters are afraid to have anyone challenge the inevitability myth. And, at work, my be-stickered car gets about one "leaflet" every two weeks — today it was an editorial from the Wall Street Journal saying that the Iraq War was the right war in the right place at the right time. Of course, I have had a Move-on sticker (Defend America, Defeat Bush) sticker longer than I have had Kerry-Edwards stickers.”