Sign of the times
October 9, 2008
Campaign signs in the area are being vandalized or just taken down in the frenzy of election season.
But officials say those actions go beyond political fervor, and are actually interfering with freedom of speech.
“It’s a low-brow, classless act,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens. “It’s OK to put a sign up expressing your opinion. It is not OK to quash someone else’s free speech.”
Owens said his office has been receiving complaints about vandalized or stolen signs because he is known as a local Republican representative.
Truckee Police Lieutenant Randy Fenn said the police department has received four or five calls on vandalism or theft of the signs in the last week to 10 days.
But local Democrats say the issue is not confined to Republican campaign materials.
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“Ted [Owens] received a lot of calls from McCain supporters. It happens ” it’s not right ” but it seems to be happening equally on both sides,” said Sue Bushnell, who is on the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee, representing the Truckee area.
“I can say from my experience putting up most of the Charlie Brown [Democratic congressional candidate] signs I’ve had to replace about a dozen,” Bushnell said.
The signs, particularly prolific this year between the presidential race and a few hotly contested local districts, are allowed for 60 days prior to the election, Bushnell said.
“People should be allowed to put up signs in appropriate places,” Bushnell said. “I love the signs, they are very festive ” they take an ordinary dreary corner and make it a place to express opinions.”
While Deputy District Attorney Bill Cornell said he didn’t know specific penalties for theft or vandalism of campaign signs, he said he hasn’t seen such a case make it to trial in 20 years.
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said either theft or vandalism of a sign is considered a misdemeanor.
“We’ve had reports on Northwoods [Boulevard] and it’s coming from both parties,” Royal said. “We see this every election cycle.”
However Royal said not to mistake theft for signs being removed from where they don’t belong.
“If you post them on a state highway or somebody else’s property for example they can be removed,” Royal said.