Fact Check

Election Sign Theft

Did an election sign thief get arrested for pilferage, DUI, and sales tax evasion?

Published Oct 22, 2004

Legend:   Election sign thief gets arrested for pilferage, DUI, and sales tax evasion.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

Dear Friends,

Last Thursday I put out one of my Bush/Cheney signs in my front yard. Between midnight and 3:00 a.m. someone stole it. On Friday night I put out sign No. 2. Since I didn't have to get up early, I thought my dog and I would "stake out" our sign. This time I put the sign a little closer to the gate leading to my backyard. With my dog on an extra long leash, I planted myself on a lawn chair and read "Unfit for Command" by flashlight until about 1:00 a.m.

Here comes the fun part . . . I noticed that the car coming down the street was slowing down and pulling over to the curb right next to my yard. Sure enough, he gets out of his car and heads right for my sign. Just as he was about to uproot and desecrate it, I opened my gate and let my dog make the initial introduction!

As he ran to hide behind the rear end of his car, I promptly moved to the driver-side door, which was
still open. It was a fairly nice car with power everything and still running. While my dog continued to "introduce" herself, I rolled up the window and hit the power door lock button. With that, I slammed the door, grabbed my Bush sign and headed into the back yard.

And now for the "rest of the story." About 40 minutes later, I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door to one of our city's finest . . . the Vancouver (Wa) Police Department. The officer asked me what was going on and when I told him, he could not stop laughing!

I followed him out to the perp's car and stood there while he asked the guy a few more questions. Upon learning that the guy lived a couple of streets down, I — knowing what was about to happen — asked him, "Why do you have Oregon plates on your car if you live just down the street (here in Vancouver, Wash.)?"

Now, Oregon has no sales tax, so often Washington residents will buy and register cars in Oregon to avoid paying sales tax . . . it's a crime and the fine is pretty stiff. Here comes the best part . . . The look on this guy's face told me he knew he was about to get busted. When the officer asked for his license and registration, the "Democrat" mumbled that (his license) was suspended.

Just for kicks and giggles I asked the officer if he smelled any alcohol coming from the guy! The officer looked at me, smiled and promptly gave him a field breathalyzer test. Guess what? You got it, he blew a .10, legally drunk in the state of Washington.

DUI, illegal registration and the brand of "MORON," all 'cause he hates Bush!

Origins:   We've been seeing this account of a sign stealer who was dished up a heaping helping of just deserts since the final week of September 2004.

Though a number of the forwards preface the piece "From a retired Marine out in Washington State" or "This article was published in a Washington state newspaper," its author remains unknown. One possibility as to its origin positions it as a letter to Larry Elder, a conservative radio host on KABC Los Angeles and author of Ten Things You Can't Say in America, but even that hypothesis does not work to identify the person who penned the account.

The form of theft decried in the anecdote has in 2004 been a problem affecting supporters of both parties in Vancouver, WA, area. Republicans and Democrats in that region have been experiencing difficulties in maintaining their campaign signs where they plant them; signs have been removed, defaced, or sometimes even supplanted by placards touting the other candidate. A 70-year-old Vancouver woman awakened one fine morning to discover her "Kerry for President" sign in her front yard had been replaced with six "Bush for President" ones. Another Democrat in that town stated he'd had 20 of his campaign signs vandalized, lamenting "I've had them broken down, cut, painted, and stolen." Residents in Oregon have experienced similar. One Beaverton man's George Bush sign was torched. A Raleigh Hills couple's John Kerry sign was shot. A Portland woman reports

that her Bush signs disappear every few days, along with all the Bush signs on her street. Indeed, throughout Oregon the Bush and Kerry campaigns and local police are getting dozens of calls a day about missing or damaged signs.

Possibly heightening the tension over who is making off with whose sign this fall is a change in policy many state parties across the country have instituted in 2004 — they've begun charging for the election accoutrements that in previous years they distributed for free. Although costs per sign are still relatively nominal (14-by-18-inch Kerry yard signs go for up to $5 each in the Vancouver, WA, area), the expense related to replacing them can mount.

Some victims of sign purloinage have attempted to counter these thefts by making their posted political statements more numerous or harder to remove. According to the Associated Press, across the country, in Winona, Minnesota, a couple had the following experience over their Kerry sign:

Winona police said Rick Carpenter needed to get a good description or catch the people stealing John Kerry campaign signs from his yard.

He certainly gave it his best shot.

Carpenter screwed his two-by-four-foot Kerry sign to the wall of his house and coated it with Vaseline. His wife, Veronica, chipped in by running fishing line from the sign into the house and tying it to wind chimes.

The chimes sounded about one a.m. Saturday. Carpenter says he was out the door so fast he forgot he wasn't wearing pants.

Carpenter says four of the five culprits had fled. One apologetic woman remained behind, saying she couldn't stop her Bush-supporting boyfriend from going after the sign. She told Carpenter she likes Kerry.

The Carpenters say they let the woman go without calling police.

Returning to the region that is the subject of the e-mailed story, a Lake Oswego man responded to the repeated pilferage of his Kerry signs by pounding in 100 more, making a $10 donation to the Kerry campaign for each, and razing the bushes lining his property so that he could properly set the notices back from the street. A Vancouver resident answered repeated removals of his Kerry sign by using wooden framing to plant the placard on his garage roof. Another stapled his sign to a plywood board reinforced with chicken wire and attached to a thick post.

Yet with all that sign vandalism and efforts to counter same going on in the Vancouver, WA, area, nothing in the region's various news stories about the current spate of "capture the flag" insanity supports the tale of a home owner who set his dog on a sign napper then got one of the local gendarmes to arrest the man for sales tax evasion, driving on a suspended licence, and driving while under the influence. This story is best viewed not as a chronicle of actual events but instead as what some in the depths of their hearts fervently wish would happen to such a person.

Barbara "wishing unwell" Mikkelson

Last updated:   26 October 2004


  Sources Sources:

    Adams, Kelly.   "Police Report: 40 Kerry Signs Stolen from Vancouver Lawns."

    The [Vancouver] Columbian.   12 September 2004   (p. C3).

    Branton, John.   "Campaign Sign Vandalism, Theft Outrages Supporters."

    The [Vancouver] Columbian.   8 October 2004   (p. C1).

      Hoover Barnett, Erin.   "Portland Area Has All the Signs of a Bitter Election."

    The [Portland] Oregonian.   29 September 2004   (p. A1).

    Nelson, Jonathan.   "Paying for a Sign of the Times."

    The [Vancouver] Columbian.   10 September 2004   (p. A1).

    Associated Press.   "Catching Sign Thieves."

    26 October 2004.

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