If you think the political climate is more divisive these days, you might be right. Especially if you ask residents whose campaign signs have been defaced recently.
“It’s not about who you support, it’s about freedom of speech. Your right to your opinion ends at my nose, or my front yard,” said Ray Gilbride of Bellingham, whose Donald Trump campaign sign has been repeatedly stolen or vandalized.
“I was disappointed more than surprised. This is one of the most cherished parts of exercising your rights and stating your preferences,” said Bill Waight of the Geneva area, whose Hillary Clinton signs have been slashed in half over and over again. “It’s happened six or seven times. I don’t know if it’s kids on the way to school, or a grumpy neighbor.”
I’ve never seen an election process like this – ever.
Dave Hanson, Geneva
On Thursday, Sept. 8, someone placed three Trump signs in front of Waight’s three Clinton signs, obscuring them from view. By the next morning, the Trump signs had been moved next to Clinton’s, so every sign could be seen.
Whatcom County law officers said that politically motivated vandalism and theft – lumped into the category of “malicious mischief” – is common during election seasons.
“I don’t know that I can say that it’s an increase,” said Bellingham Police Sgt. Mike Scanlon. “It happens every year at this time.” Undersheriff Jeff Parks at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office agrees. “I don’t get the sense that’s it’s any worse,” he said.
Parks said local off-year elections sometimes see even more animosity among neighbors. Still, few people report such incidents because they’re difficult to investigate and prosecute without hard evidence.
Dave Hanson owns property on Slater Road near Ferndale, where he allowed a Trump supporter to erect a sign – although he said he’d approve a Clinton sign at the site, too.
They’re $10 a sign, two for $15. That goes to the Clinton campaign.
Bill Waight, Geneva
“The first night it was up, somebody put a fist through it. The next night, they burned a hole in it,” Hanson said. “It’s really bad. I’m watching people get in arguments on Facebook. Come on! Whoever wins this thing, we’ll be OK. I’ve never seen an election process like this – ever.”
But both Gilbride and Waight are having the last laugh.
Waight vows to replace every Clinton sign that’s vandalized. “My wife and I, we have an agreement, I’m going out today (Thursday) to buy two more signs to replace the two that were torn in half. They’re $10 a sign, two for $15. That goes to the Clinton campaign.”
Frustrated with the theft and vandalism, Gilbride installed security cameras in an attempt to catch vandals in the act at his home near Cornwall Park. Then he rigged one of the signs with wiring similar to the electrified fences used on farms to contain animals, and it gave one vandal a visible jolt.
“It’s just a 1.5-joule fence, it’s nonlethal,” he said. “It’ll surprise you. She got tingled a little, but she still got the sign.”
And that meant another $30 to the Trump campaign when Gilbride replaced it.