My freedom of speech was stolen eight times in the last couple of weeks.
When my political yard signs "went missing" for the second time, I drove down to Elaine Luria's campaign office and loaded up my car with a few more, including a few spares. My first sign was gone in 24 hours. The second ones lasted a little longer, but not much. But filing a police report, writing a letter to the editor and and taking signs in at night didn't prevent another loss. I had replaced the two allegedly stolen signs with four - but last night I got home late and the four were gone.
I let my landlord know, today, before I made another trip to the campaign office to get eight more signs. Like Mickey Mouse's brooms in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, I decided my yard signs should multiply each time someone tried to destroy them!
The House candidates running in Virginia's 2nd district are both Navy veterans: incumbent Scott Taylor, endorsed by Trump, and first-time candidate Elaine Luria, endorsed by Pres. Obama, Vice Pres. Joe Biden, state government officials including the Governor and Lt. Governor, and the largest local paper, The Virginian-Pilot.
As far as I can tell, Luria's supporters don't seem to be indulging in theft of the other candidate's signs.
So what's the big deal with yard signs? Professor of political science at Fordham University, Costas Panagopoulos, did a study and he says "in close, competitive races, (yard signs) can make a difference in determining the outcome of an election."
On social media I received advice from Luria supporters who were encountering the same problems I was. They offered a number of ways to combat theft, ranging from posting surveillance cameras to pepper spraying the signs. So far my signs haven't stayed long enough for me to try any of them out. But the one I liked best was very creative -"Someone stole (my Luria sign) out of my yard in Larkspur, so I put up a second sign saying, 'Every time this sign is stolen I will donate $25 to Planned Parenthood.' My sign's still there."
It helps to understand your enemy!
Here are just a few excerpts from the many social media conversations I've read concerning Luria signs being stolen or damaged:
Tonight I followed someone else's advice and covered the top of each of my yard signs with gooey gobs of Vaseline.
But the best part was that when I got back from the campaign office, a huge barn sign had been erected in front of the parking lot. My landlord texted me to tell me to keep an eye on it. What a guy!
Making sure I am accorded my right to freedom of speech took some effort - more effort than it should have, but I am feeling better about it, now. The crop of Luria signs directly across the street includes several small signs and another huge barn sign, and now with our barn sign and the yard signs I added tonight, this street looks like a veritable garden of Luria flowers. And it is paving the path to the polling place, just two blocks away.