It’s election time — political signs are disappearing

On Aug. 8, Rebecca Samulski, an unaffiliated candidate for the Montezuma County Commission, had her campaign yard signs available for pickup in Dolores, Cortez and Mancos. Since then the green-and-white signs have sprouted up around the county, as many residents placed them in their yards in town, or along local highways.

However, some of the signs have been disappearing. Residents along Highway 184 and Highway 145 have had theirs removed, apparently on Aug. 27. This reporter found one thrown in the bushes alongside the river trail in Dolores, and a few other Dolores residents have had their signs taken as well. A Cortez resident had a sign removed from their residence on Montezuma Ave. and Samulski said she’s heard of at least three signs stolen in Cortez.

Whether supporters of Samulski’s opponent, Republican Joel Stevenson, or mere vandals are responsible for the disappearances is unknown.

None of the homeowners were able to see who removed the signs, and Lt. Jeff Copeland told the Four Corners Free Press that only one person has called the Montezuma County Sheriff ’s Office to report such a theft.

One resident said it’s not worth it to call the sheriff, because they can’t do anything about it. However, law enforcement does record the thefts, and it is well known that there is an uptick in campaign-sign theft as election times approach.

Samulski told the Free Press that she heard about enough thefts – at least 2 percent of her signs have been stolen that she knows about – that she did call dispatch too. She said an officer got back to her and said that unless a person is actually seen taking the sign, law enforcement doesn’t really have anything to go on.

“People are really excited and proud to have the signs, and they’ve been really upset when they’ve reached out to me to tell me that their signs have been stolen,” she said.

“I’m encouraging people to be creative – put up game cams and get the idea out there by telling people that they do have cameras on their signs.” If someone is seen or recorded stealing a sign, they can be prosecuted, but so far no one has seen anybody doing the dastardly deed.

Besides installing cameras or security systems to record the thieves, Samulski recommends that people zip-tie or wire their signs to their fences, so that they can’t be blown away by the wind, or easily removed. She said, “it could just be one or two bad apples,” and that she doesn’t think either side is condoning or promoting thievery.

In Colorado, as in all 50 states, it is illegal to remove a campaign sign. First, it is trespassing to enter someone’s private property to get the sign, and second, it is a misdemeanor crime to damage, alter or remove a campaign sign, subject to prosecution and a $750 fine. Signs must not be placed within state highway rights-of-way, but are allowed on private property.

Samulski said she let Alan Maez, chairman of the local Republican party, know about the problem, and he said he’d mention it at their Aug. 27 meeting.

One resident told Samulski that not only was their sign removed, it was replaced with a Trump sign.

“Sometimes we don’t agree with signs, but they are on other people’s property, and they should be left alone,” Samulski said.

Anyone who observes someone removing, damaging or altering any campaign sign is encouraged to call and report the crime to the Montezuma County

From September 2020.