Political Sign Vandalism Makes Some Worried about Future of Democracy

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va -- One Valley neighbor has had to remove graffiti from his political sign three times. A look at the sign reveals some of the markings, if you look close enough. It is not uncommon for election season, but this year seems to be different.

This year, members of the Augusta County Democratic Committee have had their hands full as signs have continuously been vandalized.

“It's five times worse than it's ever been. Last election, four years ago, I only know of one sign that was defaced,” said Starke Smith, co-chair of the Augusta County Democratic Committee.

It is something about which both Republicans and Democrats are concerned.

“It doesn't matter whether it's a small or a large sign, they're both becoming stolen. Frankly, there's just no place for this in any political arena,” said Matt Fitzgerald, chairman on the Staunton Republican Committee.

That was exactly how Laura Van Assendelft felt about the issue. She is a political science professor at Mary Baldwin College and she believes these sign related crimes are part of a much bigger problem.

“If we take away each other's yard signs, then we're taking away that freedom of speech and we're saying, 'I don't want to hear your opinion. Your vote, your choices are not the same as mine and I don't tolerate your opinions,' and that's where democracy starts to break down,” said Van Assendelft.

Because both camps ultimately have to work together, Van Assendelft feels this yard sign issue might be a sign of future problems.

“If we can't even respect each others yard signs, how are we supposed to sit down and make decisions after the election? That's the part that really bothers me. That intolerance of differences of opinion.”

Van Assendelft said that she worries about society's inability to have civil discussion about politics across party lines. She said a yard sign is meant to spark that conversation.


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