COCHISE COUNTY — Campaign signs, whether they tout a Republican, Democrat or Independent candidate, are the big losers in this election season, officials say, as the placards — no matter what their size or where they’re placed — are being either vandalized or vanishing altogether.
And both law enforcement and political officials say the last few weeks have seen an uptick in the number of calls, text messages and emails they’ve received concerning a political sign gone by the wayside.
The campaign signs getting targeted the most are those for presidential candidates and federal and state congressional races, said the chairpersons of the county’s Republican and Democratic committees.
“We put out close to 100 Biden and Mark Kelly signs over the last two weeks and they’re all gone,” said Elisabeth Tyndall, chairwoman for the Cochise County Democratic Party. “The moment we put them down, they’re gone.”
Her counterpart Robert Montgomery, chairman of the Cochise County Republican Committee, agreed, pointing to an incident about two weeks ago where a large Trump sign was sliced up by two men who recorded themselves in the act.
Congressional District 2 incumbent Ann Kirkpatrick and challenger Brandon Martin have both taken to social media and other outlets to decry damage to their signs. Law enforcement have seen an increase of reports in recent weeks from across the county, particularly in more rural areas.
“Tis the season,” Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said Thursday in a phone interview.
Dannels said his office has received complaints from both local candidates and homeowners about stolen and defaced signs. But the Sheriff’s Office has also fielded calls from people who want deputies to remove political signs they don’t like.
“I had an individual call me and tell me he wanted political signs taken down from private property,” the sheriff said. “Another person wanted our deputies to remove political signs from electric poles.”
“I had to explain to them that it’s not our responsibility to mess with political signs,” Dannel added.
The Sheriff’s Office has also taken reports of stolen or destroyed signs from both candidates and homeowners, said spokeswoman Carol Capas.
“We’ve seen an increase (in complaints) over the last few weeks,” Capas said.
Cochise County Elections Supervisor Lisa Marra said in a recent email that the disappearance of political signs is “fairly common,” but it’s not clear whether some signs are stolen or just carried off by the wind.
While Marra’s office is not in charge of enforcement or tracking political signs, she said, “This year does seem more obvious than previous years,” regarding political signs and their demise.
Montgomery and Tyndall are more than familiar with that situation.
“Every day I get people calling into my office telling me their Trump signs have been stolen,” Montgomery said.
He mentioned the incident with the 4-foot-by-8-foot Trump sign that was destroyed in Sierra Vista by two men. Montgomery said the pair recorded their offense as one of the perpetrators slit the sign and the other suspect hurled himself into it. Montgomery was given a copy of the video of the vandalism that appeared on a Facebook page, which he said he reported to Sierra Vista Police.
“This is a Class 2 misdemeanor,” Montgomery said. “We will always prosecute when we can.”
Tyndall says she too receives daily phone calls, emails or text messages about campaign signs.
According to Arizona law, “It is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign of any candidate for public office or in support of or opposition to any ballot measure, question or issue or knowingly remove, alter or deface any political mailers, handouts, flyers or other printed materials of a candidate...”
Montgomery and Tyndall said they both condemn defacing or stealing campaign signs.
“I would remind everyone to respect other people’s property,” Tyndall said. “By damaging campaign signs you’re restricting people’s speech. That’s one of the most un-American things we can do.”