Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Politics, it seems, helps bring out the worst of some people in Clay County.

We first expressed that sentiment near the beginning of the 2002 campaign cycle. We called for a change of behavior, starting right in our own front yards.

This, in part, is what we said more than two years ago:

�We can all help inject a more positive tone in this year�s campaign, by respecting citizens who choose to place candidates� campaign signs on their property.

It�s time we all treat each other a bit more decently. It doesn�t matter whether you like the signs or not, or whether you like a particular candidate or not.

It�s time for the trespassing, tampering and stealing of the signs to stop.�

Guess what? It hasn�t.

The photo that accompanies this column represents just how far some people will go.

Dr. Jim Green went to quite a bit of trouble to place a large, rather hefty, plywood-backed Stephanie Herseth campaign sign on his clinic�s property.

He�s surprised that a person or persons would devote so much effort to such destructive activity.

Two years ago, when political sign vandalism seemed to be hitting a peak here, we talked with Midge Carlson, who had been active in Clay County Republican politics for several decades.

She was getting fed up. She noted that yard signs are easy pickings for vandals in Clay County.

Most residents have grown to expect to lose an occasional sign or two from their yards during the course of a campaign, she noted. But Carlson was deeply disturbed by recent experiences of both residents and candidates.

It seems that, in some cases, a sign may only last a day or two before its taken. This naturally forces the candidate to supply the homeowner another sign.

And, that, too, is taken.

�You know, our constitutional rights are being violated here,� Carlson said back in 2002. �We cannot express our own wish for a candidate. It�s not good.�

It�s an experience that Doc Green, and no doubt many other county residents, have sadly had to endure this year.

It�s ironic that such activity occurs during campaigns here in the United States � a nation that boasts of its many freedoms, including the freedom its citizens to elect political leaders.

While stealing a campaign sign from someone�s front yard may not land you on the FBI�s 10 most wanted list, the activity, it still has some serious consequences.

It�s not just the candidates, who must spend additional funds for replacement signs, who suffer.

The entire American experience � and that includes participating in free and open elections � should bring out the best in us.

Instead, each election cycle seems to bring out the worst. Campaigns are growing more negative. An increasing number of vandals seem to see nothing wrong in doing whatever they can in stopping some office-seekers from promoting their candidacies.

They see nothing wrong in brazenly trespassing on private property and stealing or destroying something that doesn�t belong to them.

�They are trespassing on our constitutional rights,� Carlson said in 2002. �That�s all there is to it. I�m very angry at this point. Our people need to have their chance to get their information before the public, and we are being deprived of that.�

Doc Green�s political philosophies may differ from Carlson�s, but it�s likely the two have no difference in opinion when it comes to the work of political sign vandals.

Green notes that a person arrested for intentional damage to private property of $100 in value may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is a one year jail sentence, and a $1,000 fine. Destroy $500 worth of personal property, and you become eligible for a felony charge.

Green is offering a $100 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who destroyed his sign.

Like Green, we hope there eventually will be an arrest and conviction. Like Green, we also hope that people will come to their senses and stop this senseless behavior.

Vermillion Plain Talk editor David Lias won�t be putting any campaign signs in his front yard this year. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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