AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Tis’ the season to be political. You already know it’s election time when you’re starting to see signs asking for your vote. But some residents and community leaders in Aiken County say their signs have either been tampered with or removed altogether and they say it needs to stop.
“We’ve only had one report that I know of within the past few weeks of someone, filing an incident report saying that their sign was stolen,” Aiken County Sheriff’s Office Captain Eric Abdullah told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk. Aiken Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Jake Mahoney reported four incidents with removed signs in the City but some say the number could be much larger.
NewsChannel 6 received a number of pictures and video of signs across the County that have been tampered with. Paint splashed across them is one common occurrence. “We’ve had our big four-by-eight signs cut down with box cutters. The level of sign theft is unreal this cycle, but what’s just disconcerting or what really worries me is how many people are having people come on their property and vandalize their signs,” Jane Page Thompson of the Aiken County Republican Party said.
A neighbor even told one man about an alleged incident involving someone known in the community. “She drops a sign, goes to the truck that’s in the middle of the road, jumps in it, and takes off,” Chris Mock shared. “And the reason I’m concerned about that was he recognized the person driving the mail truck was actually our mail carrier,” he added.
Mock says after contacting the postal service on multiple occasions, he was promised a phone call from leadership but he hasn’t heard back. He’s simply looking for an apology. “I had already had six signs stolen from that place where she was at but I can’t say anything about those. I can only say something about the one that my neighbor saw her getting,” he said.
Shawn looked into the South Carolina State Code regarding tampering with signs and it’s against the law. If convicted, you could be charged up to a hundred dollars and/or thrown in jail for up to 30 days.
The tampering incidents aren’t restrictive to Republican candidates. The Aiken County Democratic Party says it has heard of several incidents involving theirs.”We’ve always had a few incidents but this time around is, seems to have been a lot more,” Chair of the organization Harold Crawford said. “At the beginning of the cycle, we put signs up signs out on the lawn of our headquarters. We had a couple of instances with them being knocked over and then removed. We got a series of signs along Wire Road that were removed and then on the entrance ramp going to I-20, signs flattened a few times, and then garbage was piled up around,” he shared.
He added that instead of worrying about incidents with signs, his team is focused on another goal. “We’re more concerned and spending our energy, getting the vote out, getting the work to people, et cetera, doing all the positive things we can do for our cause. And we don’t have the time and energy to devote to chicanery like that,” he added.
Crawford also said that if your Democratic signs are removed or damaged, stop by their headquarters to pick up another one.
“This is just not the type of vandalism that we expect on either side during an election cycle,” Thompson added.
If your signs are damaged, you’re asked to take pictures or video and contact authorities so it can be checked out.
Meanwhile, a request for information on sign tampering in North Augusta went unanswered by North Augusta Public Safety officials.