LONG BEACH — People who steal or vandalize election campaign signs can face serious penalties under Washington state law, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from doing it.
Long Beach city councilmen and mayoral candidates Mark Perez and Jerry Phillips both say thieves have recently stolen their election signs.
Perez has lost two election signs — one from Sandridge Road, and the other from the corner of Pacific Avenue and Eighth Street.
In both cases, Perez had permission from the property owners, so he doesn’t think they removed the signs. Perez noted that the unidentified thief was willing to put in a bit of effort — in one case, he or she cut through six plastic zip-ties and stole the rebar post along with the sign. He reported the incidents to the police.
“It’s nothing major but it’s a pain when you’ve got them all over the place to have to worry about them all,” Perez said. He estimates that each election sign costs somewhere between $14 and $20 each.
“I’m missing a couple,” Phillips said on Aug. 3. He’s recently lost signs from Pacific Avenue and Washington Street.
This is Phillips’ fourth political campaign, and he says some of his signs get stolen or vandalized every time. Usually, he loses “about seven” signs in a campaign season, but the last race was the worst — he lost 15 in all.
“You’re gonna lose signs. Kids are gonna go by throw ‘em out, tear ‘em up,” Phillips said. He too finds it frustrating, but he tries not to let it bother him.
“To me it’s the cost of doing a campaign,” Phillips said.
On July 28, the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office posted a message on their Facebook page, saying, “The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that stealing or damaging political campaign signs in the state of Washington is indeed a crime.”
According to RCW 29A.84.040, “A person who removes or defaces lawfully placed political advertising including yard signs or billboards without authorization is guilty of a misdemeanor,” and could face up to 90 days in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Although most states have strict laws prohibiting election sign theft, it’s still a common problem in communities across the U.S. Some sign-thieves are just mischief-makers or vandals, some have a personal grudge against the candidate, and others steal the signs because they support a different candidate, and want to sabotage the victim’s campaign.
Once in a while, the opposing candidate turns out to be the thief. According to the Washington Post, a Riverside County, Calif., district attorney was caught on video moving an opponent’s campaign signs to make room for his own in 2014. The same year, a Nye County, Nevada assistant sheriff named Rick Marshall was arrested by one of his own deputies after he got caught stealing signs that said “Anybody but Rick.”