#Election2016: Proper Protocol for Political Sign Plundering

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Photo courtesy of Reddit

Elizabeth Porter

Unfortunately, there is still one more month until this mess of a presidential election is over. Between now and November, a few things are certain: Trump will offend several minority groups, a Hillary Clinton scandal will be exposed, and there will be a marked increase in yard signs. While there is little that can be done about the first two, you do have options regarding the third.

When you notice a yard sign that you find objectionable, the first step is deciding whether you feel strongly enough to take action. Disclaimer: stealing yard signs is technically against the law. Long story short, it’s petty theft, and also trespassing, not to mention infringing on freedom of speech. If you deface the sign, it’s destruction of property. Though, if you deface the sign in an entertaining or tasteful fashion, you may fall back on the legal argument that you’ve really enhanced the sign.  If you still wish to proceed, it is time to consider tactics and embark on strategy. In your quest to silence your neighbor’s misguided political opinions, I recommend starting with a mild approach.

Phase 1:  

Consider encouraging your dog to do it’s business on or near the sign. This can send a strong and smelly message without exposing you to criminal charges. However, your dog may not be a highly-trained political saboteur, and in some cases may not share your political views (neither candidate has firmly taken a stand on animal rights issues).  Alternatively, if you have a small child at your disposal, you can send ‘em over to your neighbor’s yard with a thick black Sharpie in hand. Of course, this bears the possibility that the aforementioned child retreats to you covered in permanent marker. However, if your neighbor finds the little one scribbling over the name of their desired candidate, you can use the “kids do the darndest things defense” (recognized in most courts of law), apologize profusely for their antics, and promise to watch them more closely in the future. If this satisfies your political bloodlust, I recommend you stop here, before you risk the dangers of Phase 2.

Phase 2:

If you feel the need for more extreme action, defacing the sign yourself is a good start.  A can of spray paint is the weapon of choice for all great street artists (the humble beginnings of Banksy notwithstanding), and street sign vandalizers alike.  And while generally banned in Chicago, spray paint is still readily available for roughly three dollars at your local Michaels, Home Depot or Walmart. The key to a creative defacement is to minimally alter the existing words to reverse their point of view. Such slogan ju jitsu can often be accomplished by adding, removing, or altering a few letters.  In this election you can try changing  “Trump” to “Rump”, “Grump”, “Chump” or “Dump”, take your pick. If it’s Clinton and Kaine you’re opposed to, consider “Hillbilly”, “Oh Hill No!” or “Clinton Pain”.

If you want to flat out steal the sign, I recommend you hold off until the night for the cover of darkness. Video footage of sign stealers is occasionally captured, therefore an all-black ninja ensemble–including a hood and mask–is advisable. If you want to take a more creative route, dress up as a clown or zombie, which will disguise your identity while making more entertaining evidence for police. Halloween presents a good opportunity to implement Phase 2: it’s the perfect time, days before the election; costumes aren’t as suspicious; and minor property damage is often more tolerated, especially if the sign-owner does not provide good treats.

If you can recruit a politically like-minded friend, having a getaway driver will ensure a quick and smooth exit from the scene of the crime. (I don’t recommend a spouse; for the sake of the kids, you don’t want to both risk incarceration.)  A quick upward tug should dislodge the offending propaganda from the ground. Throw the stolen sign in the trunk and get out of there. If you can’t enlist an assistant, leave the car running and be prepared to move quickly.

Once the sign is secured in the trunk, it’s time to dispose of the evidence. Good places to throw stolen signs include lakes, dumpsters, or ravines. Though, if your motivation for direct political action is based on heightened environmental concern, you may want to consider a recycling option.  Or you can invite like-minded friends over for a sign-destroying party. All you need are a few kitchen knives and you can take symbolic revenge for every deplorable comment, lie, or obnoxious debate interruption. Really go to town with it, enjoy a glass of wine, play some pump-up music (“We Didn’t Start the Fire” perhaps?), and let out a scream of frustration if the moment feels right.

Now that your neighbor is lacking a sign, feel free to plant a new one in its place as a gift that says, “I’m sorry you are so unbelievably wrong, let me guide you in the right direction.” If they’re old enough, they may not even notice.

Happy election season everyone– and best of luck.