The Rapidian

Local politicians struggle with sign theft, defacement before Election Day

Yard signs for various political campaigns are being stolen and destroyed in West Michigan.
Amash sign replaced

Amash sign replaced /Tom Ham

As the August 5 primary approaches, yard signs for various campaigns are being defaced and stolen. Last week, a picture of two young women stealing a Justin Amash sign from a yard in Plainfield Township circulated on social media. Brad Tobin, who noticed the theft and snapped the picture, reported it to Amash who posted it on Facebook. Tom Ham, the owner of the property the sign had been on, thought he recognized the vehicle. As the owner of two automotive businesses, he's familiar with car models, he says. He was able to provide a bit more detail.

"The car looks like one I see in our neighborhood frequently. I believe it is a 1999 Lexus RX300 cream and tan two tone. I will see if I can locate it and report back. [The] sign was across the street from the northeast corner of Northview High School property," said Ham. "They also took my small yard sign at the same time."

Very soon after the picture went public, Amash reported that the individuals who stole the large sign had visited his campaign office to apologize.

“It took a lot of courage to do that," said Amash. "We accept their apologies and consider the case closed. Mr. Ham, we'll have a new sign over to you in no time!”

The sign has been replaced, and after this incident, is likely to remain there for the rest of this election cycle. Sadly, the same cannot be said of others.

“Campaign experienced a rash of yard sign thefts and destructions last night,” Keith Allard, who is running for State Representative in Michigan’s 76th district, reported Monday morning. Larger signs were defaced with spray paint, and the stakes holding them were stolen as well, so they would be harder- and more expensive- to replace.

Thomas Norton, a candidate in Michigan's 73rd district, said he’d replaced about 56 signs north of M-21 where he has the biggest presence, but not elsewhere where his campaign isn’t dominant.

This spring before the May 6 election, 211 “NO TAX HIKE!” signs were also stolen.

A large number of signs being stolen or ruined in a short period of time has some involved in campaigns asking if this trend is more political than personal. At this time it has not been determined whether this is a coordinated attempt by an individual or group for political purposes or the result of a juvenile prank. 

Sign theft and defacement is an ongoing problem, and a larger one than the public realizes. Along with general laws concerning personal property rights, stealing an election sign is also deemed a criminal act because of its capacity to impede free speech and public dialogue on a general level. 

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