Candidates say missing campaign signs a problem this election season

A large stack of signs sits at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department facility on Highway 112 in Fayetteville after being removed from the public right-of-way.

Staff photo

With the general election just weeks away, Fayetteville residents have probably noticed political signs appearing on seemingly every street corner and along every popular thoroughfare in town.

According to some candidates, however, political signs are disappearing almost as quickly as they’re popping up.

Four out of five candidates in the Ward 4 City Council race said they have had recurring problems with their political signs either being damaged or removed this season.

“I have had a few of mine that have been messed with, i.e. thrown into creeks, kicked, bent, thrown around and straight out stolen,” said Mike Emery.

Terry Coberly, a former Bentonville mayor who is running in Ward 4, said she has learned to expect some vandalism, but it’s still frustrating and disappointing to see signs damaged.

“All candidates are working hard, and the costs of any campaign are not small,” said Coberly.

Alan Long said he’s had similar problems. William Chesser has not yet placed any signs for his campaign.

“My campaign team reported seeing my signs ripped and stripped even though they were freshly placed throughout Ward 4,” said J.P. Peters. “I know we had bad weather recently, but the signs around where my signs were did not show similar damage.”

Spokesmen for both mayoral candidate’s campaigns said while these kinds of issues are a common problem during campaign season, signs do seem to be disappearing at an unusual rate lately.

Police Sgt. Craig Stout said there haven’t been many formal complaints filed regarding political signs this season, but that anyone caught vandalizing signs could be charged with criminal mischief and face fines of up to $1,000.

“Would they receive the maximum fine? I don’t know, that’d be up to a judge, but that is the law,” said Stout.

At least some of the missing signs can be attributed to illegal placement.

Billy Bower, a maintenance worker for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said that it is state policy to remove signs that are placed in public right-of-way.

“Sometimes we’ll move them off the right-of-way, but usually they’re back the next day,” said Bower. “Then, we just have to remove them.”

Still, that doesn’t account for the vandalism allegedly occurring this season.

Peters said while she acknowledges that some of the damage could be random, she hopes her fellow candidates would discourage any die-hard supporters who don’t understand campaign etiquette to refrain from sign warfare-like activity.

“I have told my supporters I would rather lose the election than any integrity because of any immature acts of sign vandalism,” said Peters. “We have all run great campaigns and spent a lot of time and money to ensure our campaigns are visible to the voters.”

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election begins Oct. 22.

Note: Todd Gill contributed to this story.