WE’RE HOT ON THEIR TRAIL … (NOT REALLY)
In a state where “all politics is middle school,” it’s not surprising that a time-honored campaign tactic is the theft and destruction of opponents’ political signs. Whether it’s a statewide race or a local election, South Carolina highways are perpetually littered with campaign signs – brightly colored rectangles that broadcast the names of various candidates for elected office.
How many signs are we talking about?
Depending on how a district is laid out, most races for the S.C. State House will budget for an estimated 500 yard signs and approximately 25-30 of the much larger 4X8′ road signs. State Senate races typically produce 1,000 yard signs and between 50-60 road signs. Congressional races? You’re looking at 5,000 yard signs and 250-300 road signs, while statewide races typically order up to 10,000 yard signs and 600 of the 4X8′ signs.
This overabundance of campaign signage naturally leads to numerous instances of defacement, destruction and theft. After all, the name of the game is name identification – and opposing campaigns naturally want to do whatever they can to limit the name identification of their rivals. In fact we’re told that most larger-size political consulting firms employ individuals whose sole responsibility is taking down their opponents’ signs – whether through challenging their placement or physically removing them.
One South Carolina political consultant told FITS that anywhere between 50-70 percent of campaign signs are defaced, destroyed or stolen over the course of a typical race.
“In some races you put them up in the afternoons and they’re gone the next morning,” the consultant told us. ”Either that or they get slashed or have not-so-nice things written on them.”
There are all sorts of local laws governing the placement of political signs. In fact to see the hodge-podge of overlapping laws in just one of South Carolina’s forty-six counties, click here. Assuming a sign is legally placed, though, it’s against state law to remove it.
“It is unlawful to deface, vandalize, tamper with, or remove a lawfully placed political campaign sign prior to the election without the permission of the candidate or party,” S.C. Code 7-25-210 states.
Violators can be fined up to $100 and/ or imprisoned for thirty days, however municipalities have been known to charge sign stealers with petit larceny – which carries a $1000 fine.
According to our sources, one particular sign stealing bandit is currently wreaking havoc in Lexington County, S.C. – targeting the signs of S.C. Senate candidates Katrina Shealy and DeeDee Vaughters (Shealy is running as a petition candidate against incumbent Sen. Jakie Knotts, RINO-Lexington, while Vaughters is running against incumbent Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington).
The bandit was described as an old grey-haired woman – driving a late model black Pontiac sedan. In fact one witness observed the bandit in action on U.S. Highway 378 folding up Katrina Shealy signs and putting them in her car. When the woman was approached by a local business owner (who had given Shealy permission to place her signs on his property), she sped off.
One of Shealy’s consultants tells FITS that up to 30 of her 4X8′ signs have been stolen in recent weeks. Info from Vaughters’ campaign was not immediately available.