The newspaper is receiving more reports of theft and vandalism of campaign signs this year than I can recall in any previous election.
The vandalism of the Maine Women for Trump sign at the Lincoln County Republican Committee’s Damariscotta headquarters, way back in January, was apparently a warning of a long season to come.
More recently, I have heard reports from as far afield as Somerville and South Bristol about damage to and theft of signs. A Republican in Damariscotta told me she posted signs on a fence by her home and promptly received “gifts” of bagged dog excrement. At least three people who live in South Bristol have told me about repeated theft and vandalism of Democratic signs in their town. They put the signs up, someone drives over them. They put them up again, someone takes them down. They put them up again, someone tears them up.
This behavior is unacceptable. Some may view destruction or theft of campaign signs as a harmless prank, but in my view, it is far from it.
These actions, regardless of whether they involve Democratic or Republican signs, show a lack of respect for different views. They show a willingness to break the law to silence those with different views. They constitute voter intimidation, in my view. But more than anything, I worry about what could happen when angry confrontations inevitably result from these activities.
It may be difficult to enforce the law when it comes to destruction and theft of campaign signs, although some of the people making these reports seem to have good information about who was responsible. (I always encourage them to contact local law enforcement.) In at least one case, we have heard of people installing game cameras to catch vandals in the act.
If the police can identify the people responsible for these actions, we hope the district attorney’s office will prosecute them.
We suspect some of the destruction comes from alcohol and youthful stupidity. In those cases, the people responsible should receive counseling and maybe have to pass a civics class that covers freedom of speech.
In cases where the people responsible are sober adults acting out of intolerance for different political views, those people should face the maximum penalties available.
Maine law allows a fine of up to $250 for the destruction or removal of a campaign sign, a civil offense. From what we hear out of South Bristol, someone could and should have a bill for many thousands of dollars. They should pay every penny.
Maine law allows more severe penalties for criminal mischief, or vandalism, as well as theft. If these laws apply, perhaps these people could benefit from thinking over their actions for a couple days in Two Bridges.
Destruction and theft of campaign signs is not acceptable and is a lazy and counterproductive way to express one’s views. Have an opinion? Vote. Talk to others about what you believe. Volunteer for a campaign. Run for office yourself. To steal or vandalize campaign signs — or bombard your neighbor with excrement in response to their campaign signs — demonstrates a lack of character and cements your “victim’s” determination to elect their candidate or candidates of choice.
A note on letters: Next week’s edition will be the final edition of The Lincoln County News prior to Election Day. Per our usual practice, we will accept only endorsement letters and otherwise positive letters about candidates. We will not accept any negative letters or any letter we think a candidate might want to respond to, as the candidates will no longer have an opportunity to respond before the election.