Stealing or damaging election signs is against the law. Those who do will be charged
I have been asked to cover some issues related to election signs, and what better time to cover it than during our current election season. I looked back in my archives and, lo and behold, I had written a similar article almost four years ago to the date.
We are so lucky to live in a free and democratic society where we get to choose our elected officials every two years, four years or some cases six years. We should be grateful for those who take the time and make the commitment to put their names on a ballot and serve our communities at all levels.
Having said that, we need to respect the process by which these men and women promote themselves and their views in seeking these important offices.
One of the most visible signs that we are now in an election cycle is the presence of election signs, either on private property or rented billboards.
The tampering or outright theft of these pieces of property is just that, and it is just as much a violation as if any other personal property was stolen or damaged. The state statutes which cover theft (943.20) or damage to property (943.01) do apply in these incidents as well. Any and all reports of such violations will be investigated and charges referred, just like any other complaints of similar criminal behavior.
In regard to the placement of signs by candidates, Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 12 governs those who are seeking public office and sets forth the restrictions and allowances for campaign material.
At a local level, a few things to consider are making sure these signs are in fact on private property and not on publicly owned property or posted in the public right of ways along the side of roads.
Also, there are specific regulations requiring specific language that must be present on all election signs as well as any election material being handed out or circulated. We have all seen these “Authorized and Paid for by …” statements in small print, but many are not aware that this is actually required by election regulations.
Even when posting on private property, it is common courtesy to ask permission before posting these signs. I actually had one land on my yard without my knowledge, so I promptly placed it in my garage, and when the candidate asked where their sign went, I introduced them to this little courtesy.
While we may not hold similar views to all candidates, we owe them the respect that is due them for putting themselves out and sacrificing their time and resources to make our communities stronger and engage in our democratic process. Thank you to all who serve in elected office and good luck to those currently seeking office.
Matt Joski is Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Stealing or damaging election signs is against the law. Those who do will be charged