JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You've probably seen them all across Jacksonville, political signs touting those running for office in the Nov. 6 election, but what you may not have seen is that people are starting to steal the signs of those they oppose in the upcoming political races.
Recently, a woman was caught stealing not one, but several political signs outside the Duval County Republican office on San Jose Boulevard. According to Jacksonville police reports, the woman put the signs in her car and then drove off. The woman has not been charged in the case.
"I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. The signs just don’t appear, people have to pay for them," said chairwoman of the Republican Party of Duval County Karyn Morton.
She said this is hard-earned money from Jacksonville residents supporting their democratic rights.
"That is their freedom of speech, that is freedom of political speech. Political speech is the most protected speech in this country, and yet they gave that money, in order to have that freedom of speech, and this woman just comes down the street and tears those signs. It is wrong and against the law, and it needs to stop," Morton said.
Her response seems to resonate across party lines.
"It’s petit theft. You can be arrested. So just knowing the fact you steal someone’s property, it is valuable, it has a cost associated with it, it is a crime for you to steal signs, so just don’t do it," said Daniel Henry, first vice chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.
State and local laws regulate the placement and usage of political signs.
It is illegal to place political signs on public property, including roads and medians. It's also illegal to put up political signs on rights-of-way such as road shoulders and sidewalks, utility poles, public parking lots and government buildings.
If you see a political sign in one of these places you can call police to report it, but authorities don't want anyone to take the law into their own hands. If you're not sure if a sign has been placed somewhere it shouldn't be, you can use telephone poles as a reference point. Anything right of the poles could be private property, anything left would be public land.Ultimately you should refer to the city's code enforcement guidelines. That office has the ultimate say and policing powers on where signs can and cannot go. In the meantime, it's better to take a hands-off approach.
"If you don’t like the sign, then quit looking at, but that doesn’t mean you can take it. I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican of NPA or anything else, if it is not yours, keep your hands off it, said Morton.
The election is a little more than six weeks away and the main goal of all the signs is to remind you to exercise your right to vote.
"They can vote by early voting ,which starts in a couple of weeks, they can vote by mail, and you will get your ballots the first week of October," said Henry.
Florida will elect a new governor on Nov. 6. Several other important races are also on the ballot.