What were they thinking – people who steal political signs during campaigns?

It’s that time of the year when political signs dot the landscape, and some people feel inclined to take the signs of those with whom they disagree. Signs are already starting to disappear all over town. Surely, it’s not someone connected with the major parties, who would stoop to such thievery, while freedom of speech issues are being debated in most campaigns of those seeking election on November 2?


Now, I’m not talking about the signs that are “planted in a spot where it’s not supposed to be” as pointed out by Geri Nikolai in today’s Go section. As Ms Nikolai observed, “most of the signs are in a street right of way, that narrow strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street.”

That is, of course, unless you are campaigning in Machesney Park, where the sign-police measure from the center of the street, some 35 feet to the sign. Just make sure not to place your sign on a narrow street, where even if it’s in your supporter’s yard, the municipal powers that be can remove it.

It may be only petty larceny – the signs seldom cost the candidate more than a few bucks each, still it is someone else’s property, and the act of signlifting does deny that candidate their first amendment rights. It also turns into a big waste of time for the candidate’s supporters who stapled the signs to the wires, had to drive to the location to place the signs in very hard ground, due to lack of rain – but many uninformed people out there feel they’re entitled to steal signs – it’s just part of the campaign, right?

In the Huffington Post is the confession of a visiting professor at a local college, in “Confessions of a lawn sign stealer,” which sums up at least what “he” was thinking.


Sure, I understand that stealing a sign will not change anyone’s mind, and, most likely, will only embolden McCain supporters’ disdain for liberals. Even so, yanking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.

Mature? No. Illegal? Yes. Satisfying? Definitely.

Political signlifting also is a violation of the first amendment rights of the people who have given the candidate permission to put the sign on their property, to display their support. But so what – doesn’t the ends justify the means?



  1. Ted: The theft and vandalism of political yard signs happens in every campaign, and the victims usually are candidates of both parties.

    I’ve been involved in a few campaigns over the years, and I can’t recall a single one in which yard signs weren’t stolen or ripped apart. I’ve also seen campaign offices vandalized and campaign bumper stickers defaced.

    The ultimate irony, it seems to me, is that most yard signs seem to have little effect on the electorate in most cases. (I know of one prominent exception to that rule, but that’s a story for another day). TV and radio ads are infinitely more important than yard signs.

    Have you ever wondered why a campaign would bother putting up signs in a lot that’s already cluttered with zillions of other signs? I mean, what’s the point?

    All in all (if you haven’t already surmised), I hate yard signs. They’re a waste of money and effort, and they’re a visual blight on the community. But free speech is free speech, right?

    Maybe somebody someday will organize folks to pledge that they won’t vote for any candidate who campaigns with yard signs.

  2. Chuck Sweeny

    Yard signs in the yards of most single-family homes make a statement about someone who’s supporting the candidate on the sign.

    Signs in public parks (Yes, the park district says it’s OK) or in the right-of-way tell me nothing.

    Signs always get stolen, but it’s particularly bad this year. Syverson sez he has lost more than 200.

    Machesney Park seems to be devolving into a nuisance government.

  3. I find it interesting that this sign-stealer, who just HAD to post (brag?) about his illegal activity, is an obvious Liberal. Isn’t this the same group who proclaim themselves as being “high-minded”, and “tolerant”? Apparently, in HIS warped mind, the end justifies the means.

    This hypocrite of the first magnitude goes on to “justify” his illegal actions, in part because of Bill O’Reilly (twice), and also in order to foster a false impression that John McCain was not being supported (he described THAT reason as “the most high-minded explanation that I can offer”).

    In his description of stealing the largest sign, I almost thought he was describing a self-induced sexual experience. All that was missing was his cries of “YES, YES, Oh, God! YES!” as the sign finally came free.

    As disgusting as this crime-ridden story was, one fact is even more disturbing, IMHO: This self-confessed and unrepentant criminal is a COLLEGE PROFESSOR.

  4. shawnnews

    I can tell you one Syverson sign wound up being stuck in a churchyard. I know the reverend there does not endorse political candidates and I filled him in in case someone complained about his non-profit status. The sign was removed.

  5. I think ALL candidates should review the ordinances and laws applying to where you can place a political sign. Most are on City Properties and they can and will remove them. It’s unfair to candidates that follow the law and know where you can’t put signs when another candidate places signs there to get an upper hand. My question is How can someone be running for public office to write laws and ordinances when they can’t even follow the law? As far as the Rockford Park District Mr. Sweeney. You can only place political signs in public parks if you are running for ROCKFORD PARK DISTRICT COMMISSIONER and they only allow 3 candidates for ROCKFORD PARK DISTRICT COMMISSIONER to place signs there so your information is incorrect. Also are ALL the candidates going to remove their signs in the 48 hours after the election timeline? or do we have to see them blowing and littering up our communities? We will have to see which candidates will follow through. How about that guy who’s painting his own signs and recycling them. Pretty darn thoughtful and caring about the environment to me.

  6. Ted Biondo

    J Will – welcome to the blog. I will simply answer your comment and the one from shawnews about the Syverson sign winding up in the churchyard, is that when some of the signs are stolen, the perpitrators aren’t satisfied with thievery but put the sign somewhere that will get the candidate a call from the municipality – real winners or is it weiners.

  7. Ted Biondo

    You are correct Pat, most data show that the yard signs are not that effective, especially if the sign is placed in an area where there are multiple signs. But free speech, as you say, free speech.

    Also, the people who allow the signs to be placed in their yard at least think they are taking some action, some stand for the process, and these thieves, from both parties, as you state, are denying that action – a totalitarian mindset, like the professor in my post.

    I think as long as the candidates or their supporters try to get out and remove the signs in a couple of days, as J Will suggest it’s Ok – at least the practice employed some sign makers, all over the country, and probably had more effect than the stimulus money and was a lot cheaper.

    : )

  8. Ted Biondo

    Chuck – You are very correct about signs in individual yards being an expression of support for the candidate and they should be allowed to remain.

    I also think Machesney Park is devolving into a nuisance government. The 35 foot requirement from the center of the street to the sign, that allows a sign to b removed from someone’s yard is unreasonable.

    That’s why Macheney Park, forgive me for this, is called “strict land”

  9. If Machesney Park is removing political signs that are on private property, even if they are 35 feet from the center of the street, they may be breaking the law. See: “City of LaDue vs Gillio”.

  10. shawnnews

    I think you might be right about the signs, Ted. I also think there are some campaign volunteers who just put the signs in places where the cars go and where the sign might look good.

  11. shawnnews

    I should have added “without regard to legality,”
    think you might be right about the signs, Ted. I also think there are some campaign volunteers who just put the signs in places where the cars go and where the sign might look good without regard to legality.”

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