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Still signs of trouble

Reports of theft and vandalism of political signs haven’t gone away, officials say

Photo by Deb Gau With the 2020 election approaching, signs for political candidates are a common sight around the Marshall area. However, members of area political parties say theft and vandalism of signs is still going on.

MARSHALL — This election season, members of area parties have called attention to political signs being stolen or defaced. But in spite of Lyon County party members’ calls for more civil forms of disagreement, thefts are still going on.

In the month of August, Marshall Police took 21 reports of theft or vandalism of political signs, said Public Safety Director Jim Marshall. So far, there have been four reports made in September.

“I think it’s been pretty consistent,” Marshall said.

Outside of Marshall, it’s still hard to say exactly how many incidents of political signs being vandalized or stolen there have been, said Lyon County Sheriff Eric Wallen. However, “I think there’s been more reports” to law enforcement, he said.

Three weeks ago, leaders of the Lyon County DFL and the Lyon County Republicans held a roundtable discussion with Wallen to talk about sign theft and vandalism. It’s a problem that people often don’t report, which makes it hard to tell how widespread the thefts are, Wallen said. However, he encouraged people to tell law enforcement about stolen or damaged signs.

Political signs are still being stolen or damaged in the Marshall area, local party leaders said. But at least after the conversation with Wallen, there is a course of action people can take.

“Now I can tell people, if your sign is gone, please report it,” said Debbie Clark, co-chairperson of the Lyon County Republicans.

“We’ve heard reports of several signs still being taken,” said Dana Moore, vice chairperson of the Lyon County DFL. DFL members are also encouraging people to report stolen or damaged signs to law enforcement, he said.

Sign thefts and vandalism isn’t just a problem in Lyon County either. Pat Anderson, co-chairperson of the Yellow Medicine County Republicans, said Monday that there have been several people who have had political signs stolen, more so in Granite Falls.

“We try to keep them supplied,” Anderson said. But she said there have been people who have needed to replace their political signs multiple times. “We’re kind of taking things in stride.”

Tim Velde, chairperson of the Yellow Medicine County DFL, said a Biden campaign sign had been stolen near the intersection of Yellow Medicine County Road 18 and U.S. Highway 59, and he had heard of problems with sign theft in the Canby area. It was concerning for a few different reasons, he said.

“It seems to me like people aren’t willing to accept that someone can have an opinion different from theirs,” Velde said. Plus it takes time and effort to put up a sign, and depending on their size, signs can be costly.

After the roundtable discussion, Wallen said he’s had a few questions from county residents about foul language on political signs, and has tried to reach out to people who have reported sign vandalism or theft on social media. But while it seems like there have been more reports of such incidents over the past few weeks, he said it’s hard to tell if that means more signs are being damaged or stolen, or more people are speaking up about it.

Moore also said it’s not certain if there’s more or less sign theft going on. But there might be some reasons for hope that people can respect each other’s differences. Moore said he had heard one story of a person reaching out to let a neighbor know their lawn sign was down, even though the neighbor had differing political beliefs.

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