What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 41 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
3 years 1 day ago
More in News
Illegal campaign sign tampering 'just part of the game'
FLATTENED — A campaign sign for independent senate candidate Angus King lies flatteded next to Route 117. Under state law, it is illegal to tamper, remove or damage legally-placed political signs. Tampering with signs is a civil violation with fines up to $250.
OXFORD HILLS — Last week, signs for Carol Gutekunst, a Democrat running for Oxford County Register of Probate, were run over, taken down, then illegally removed from the side of the road at Noble's Corner in Norway, according to Phil Gutekunst, Carol's husband and campaign treasurer.
"People don't understand that we have a legal right to put those there," says Gutekunst. "It's political speech, it's protected."
He says two Gutekunst signs, as well as one supporting independent senate candidate Angus King disappeared, while signs for Republican candidates were left alone.
Gutekunst isn't the only local candidate to have signs tampered with – Roger Jackson, an Oxford Republican running for a seat in the Maine house, says four of his signs were stolen, including one on his own front yard over the September 29-30 weekend.
"Whether it be a prank or otherwise, those signs cost money, you have to replace them; it isn't that I'm jumping up and down and going to lose a lot of sleep over it, but it is disturbing," Jackson says.
Phil Gutekunst says that when he talked to veteran candidates about the incident at Noble's Corner, they were unfazed.
"Welcome to the sign wars," he was told.
Tampering with, removal and destruction of signs isn't uncommon, particularly during a big election year like 2012, when the signs are a ubiquitous addition to the landscape.
For candidates, losing signs during a campaign is actually normal. "It's part of the game," says Jackson.
Still, the intentional removal or destruction of signs is concerning.
Signs can be expensive, and when a small campaign is being funded primarily by the candidate, even losing a few signs can make a dent.
Jackson says he spent around $500 on signs. Carol Gutekunst says she spent around $1,000.
What is more frustrating to candidates is that sign tampering is specifically prohibited under Maine state law.
"I think there's a lot of people who don't understand that when they're destroying signs or taking signs or removing them, even laying them down, that's something that they shouldn't be doing," says Sandra Thompson, a candidate registrar for the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Electoral Practices.
According to Maine state law, taking, defacing or disturbing a lawfully-placed sign is a civil penalty that can carry a fine of up to $250.
Despite its illegality, sign tampering accompanies every election, Thompson says.
While removing signs from private property is relatively uncommon, the signs that dot the sides of public roads are more vulnerable.
According to the 2012 Maine Candidate's Guide, distributed by the Ethics Commission, signs may be erected within the public right-of-way limits on public roads no sooner than six weeks prior to an election.
That means that the majority of signs placed on the road's shoulder are legally erected – removing them carries the same penalty as taking one from private property.
A perennial issue
Oxford County politicos say sign tampering is a perennial issue, but it isn't as extreme here as other parts of the state.
They agree that some people simply don't know or understand the rules.
Ryan Lorrain, treasurer for the Oxford County Republican Committee, says sign tampering isn't a huge issue in Oxford County.
"Generally, people are pretty good about leaving other people's signs alone, as long as they are legally where they need to be," says Lorrain.
Still, Lorrain, who has run twice for a seat in the Maine House of Representatives, had his own experience of sign theft during his first campaign in Waterville in 2008.
"I put them [signs] all over the street, up and down the road and by the time I got back, they were all gone," he remembers.
Cathy Newell, the Oxford County Democrat Chairwoman, says it's not usually political opponents who remove signs.
Sometimes people simply don't want to see the signs on the road by their home and take them down – many people don't understand removing the signs is illegal, she says.
Candidates are generally sensitive to people's preferences anyway, she says.
"You don't need to put it right in front of someone's house that isn't one of your supporters ... certainly the preference, always, is to put the sign on a supporter's lawn. Those count 100 times more than the mess out on the right-of-way."
SEASONAL COLORS — Campaign signs placed on the intersection of Greenwood and Morse roads in Norway. Phil Gutenkunst, the treasurer for Carol Gutenkunst, a Democratic candidate for Oxford County Registrar of Probate, says campaign signs he erected on the corner were repeatedly tampered with, before being illegally removed some time last week. Gutenkunst says the Democratic candidate's signs were targeted, as signs for Republican candidates were left unmolested.