As is normally the case during the time period shortly before an election, reports begin to come into the Roanoke-Chowan Publications newsroom regarding stolen or damaged political campaign signs.
That scenario is playing out once again as the Nov. 6 General Election draws near.
Officials with both major political parties in Gates County as well as individual candidates in Hertford and Bertie counties have voiced their concerns with this newspaper, claiming their campaign signs have been illegally removed following placement along local roadways and at intersections.
In Gates County, political party officials said most of the missing signs are the ones for the Democratic and Republican nominees for President of the United States.
Hertford County’s problem with missing signs appears to be connected with the race for the Board of Education.
Roanoke-Chowan Publications contacted the North Carolina Board of Elections, asking what law applied to such unwarranted removal of campaign signs. According to a reply from Don Wright, General Counsel for the NC State Board of Elections, it is a Class 3 misdemeanor for the unlawful removal (steal) such signs or to deface or vandalize the same, as written in State General Statute 136-32.
As far as the legal placement of a campaign is concerned, the same statute says they must be no closer than three feet from the each of a state maintained roadway; they cannot obscure the visibility of a motorist at an intersection, are not permitted to be higher than 42 inches above the edge of the pavement, cannot be larger than 864 square inches and no campaign sign is permitted to obscure or replace another sign.
Generally, the placement of campaign signs on private property (with the permission of the owner) is allowed without restrictions.
Those witnessing the illegal removing of a campaign/political sign or question how they are placed along local roadways in regards to the aforementioned criteria are urged to contact their local law enforcement agency.
When asked about possible civil action against a person guilty of unlawfully removing a campaign sign, Wright said a person “could sue in civil court for the value of a lost sign, but the reality is the cost in attorney fees and time would make such an action doubtful. The criminal court is best for a prompt resolution of such matters. The criminal judge can place conditions on the sentence that may give relief to a wronged party.”