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Vandalism and theft of campaign signs strikes across party lines

 

October 17, 2018

Bob Sivertsen

All the candidates for Montana House District 28 have experienced, in different degrees, people vandalizing or stealing their campaign signs or at least attempting to do so, the candidates said.

Independent candidate Bob Sivertsen of Havre, reported to the Havre Police Department at 2:11 p.m. Monday that his campaign signs were being ripped down across town.

Sivertsen is facing off against incumbent Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, and Libertarian candidate Conor Burns, also from Havre, for the seat in the Legislature.

Sivertsen said in an interview that he has been experiencing people stealing or destroying his campaign signs for the past three weeks in a variety of different locations. He added that Sunday night, on Fifth Avenue and 14th Street, one of his bigger campaign signs was torn down off the post where it was hanging and left on the ground.

He said he doesn't know who has been vandalizing his signs.

Sivertsen added that he has also been receiving "prank" phone calls for the past month. These calls, he said, were left on his answering machine and he did not get a chance to speak with the caller.

"It's unfortunate that we let these things happen in our community," Sivertsen said.

He added that he has not experienced anything like this during his past campaigns throughout multiple decades.

Bachmeier said he has also been experiencing people destroying or stealing his campaign signs but has been noticing it long before the past few weeks.

In the primary, around May, Bachmeier said, he saw one person driving around town in a white pickup truck, tearing off the tops of campaign signs and leaving them on the street or throwing them in the bed of the truck. Bachmeier said he witnessed the individual doing this for a few blocks. Close to the end of the primary the vandalism stopped, Bachmeier said. The signs up during the primary were taken down, then signs went up again for the the general election.

Two or three weeks ago, Bachmeier said, the vandalism started up again. The sign tops have been discovered in strange places, Bachmeier said, such as storm drains and on park benches. He said that Sunday night during the Pasma-Peck Dinner he was informed by at least five different people about signs being vandalized or stolen.

"At a local level, I think sometimes people might think it's funny to go around and take people's signs and steal them," Bachmeier said. " ... signs are expensive. First of all it is rude to trespass and to steal or destroy someone's signs, but they're expensive and we invest a lot of money in signs."

Bachmeier said that in 2016 he saw some instances of sign vandalism and theft but he has noticed more of it happening during this cycle.

He added he has not reported this to the local authorities, but has heard some people say they plan to in the future.

Jacob Bachmeier

"I think it's rude and inappropriate and I think they should stop," Bachmeier said. "People want to express their First Amendment freedom of speech and putting up signs is something that makes them feel empowered. They feel that it's a personal endorsement of them to put a sign up in their yard ... people should have some respect for the individual people who are putting up signs, even if they don't like the candidates or if they think it's funny to take the signs. At a personal level, you are stealing signs from your neighbors."

Burns said he has only heard one instance where someone was attempting to steal one of his signs.

He said a friend told him he saw someone come into his yard and attempted to steal one of Burn's signs but was scared off by his dog. Since then, he added, there have been no other issues he has heard about.

 

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