It seems no modern election cycle is complete without its share of political sign vandalism and theft.
We’ve seen complaints popping up on social media the past week that yard signs — mostly for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — have disappeared from Amherst residences.
In one instance, a man on the close Amherst Facebook group said all five of his Trump yard signs had been stolen overnight. Another woman said her sign supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was taken.
On Monday, Amherst councilman Phil Van Treuren took time in an open meeting to chastise whomever “maliciously” spray-painted over a candidate’s signs in his own neighborhood.
Van Treuren is a Republican who has publicly denounced Trump while also refusing to support Clinton. While he did not say which candidate’s signs had been defaced, he found the actions shocking.
“Not only are you stepping on residents’ first amendment rights when you do something like that, but you’re also breaking the law,” he said.
The councilman encouraged would-be culprits to “use your brain instead of a spray paint can.”
Also weighing in was councilman Joe Miller, a Democrat, who said stealing or defacing signs goes against the principles of democracy.
As of Tuesday, our check on reports showed no complaints had been filed with police regarding sign problems.
Breaking the law isn’t the only concern.
While driving through Amherst, Miller’s noticed signs close to roadways and near mailboxes, which violates the city’s recently-updated ordinance on temporary signage.
Miller said people are free to express their political opinions via signs but need to pull them back out of the public right-of-way where they can block visibility for oncoming traffic.
The right-of-way is often defined by where sidewalks run. In areas without sidewalks, signs should be placed behind where utility lines hang.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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