Republican and Democratic chairs in Polk County ask their supporters to ‘channel your enthusiasm’ elsewhere and stop committing crimes.
Local party leaders and candidates nationwide and across Wisconsin report an increase in energy and activity over the 2020 election, but not in a way they like. In Polk County it has led the chairs of the two county parties to publish a letter asking that theft or vandalism of political signs be ended.
Alan Walker, chair of the Polk County Republican Party, joined with Kim Butler, chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, when she suggested the bipartisan pitch amid an ongoing rash of signs being stolen or damaged.
The letter reminds readers that the signs were put up with volunteer effort and paid for by supporters’ “hard-earned money.” The co-chairs also note the state statute that makes stealing or defacing campaign signs a crime.
The full letter reads as follows.
To the Editor,
As Chairs of the Polk County Democratic and Republican Parties, we join together to condemn the wave of political sign destruction and theft this election season. Candidates from both parties, up and down the ballot, have had their signs destroyed and this is not only wrong, it’s against the law. This is an issue we totally agree on. It brings dishonor to our political parties when sign vandalism occurs, and neither of us approves of this behavior.
Free speech, and the right to express an opinion is embedded in our Constitution. A political yard sign or a candidate flag expresses an opinion, and that should be respected even if you disagree with it. Candidates and campaigns worked hard to pay for these signs. Voters spent their hard earned money to buy these signs and flags. Volunteers worked hard to distribute and install these signs. Respect that effort, and leave their signs alone.
Moreover, it is against the law to destroy a sign. These signs are on private property. Under Wisconsin law, no person may deface, destroy or remove any legally placed election campaign sign or alter the information printed on it. WI State Statutes 943-01 and 943-20(1) state that violators can be prosecuted and face fines ranging from $100 to $10,000 and sentenced to 9 months in jail. This isn’t a prank. Make sure the young people in your life understand this.
Trail cams and security cameras will record vandals in action, and we will report thefts and vandalism to local law enforcement and encourage that charges be filed.
Please channel your enthusiasm for your candidate in a positive way, and donate or volunteer for the candidate you support. Please respect their opponent and their supporters, and leave their signs alone.
That’s the American Way.
Kim Butler, Chair, Polk County Democratic Party
Alan Walker, Chair, Polk County Republican Party