There have been several reports on social media throughout the past couple of weeks of election signs being defaced across the whole province.
While it’s unfortunately common for people to vandalize election signs by knocking them over or tearing them apart, many of the vandals have been particularly vitriolic this time around.
In perhaps the most egregious instance, Edmonton NDP candidate Dave Sheppard had one of his election signs painted with a swastika.
In Calgary, NDP candidate Deborah Drever had “death to Marxists” graffiti painted on one of her signs.
This is by no means limited to the incumbent party.
Also in Calgary, Alberta Party candidate Joanne Gui had a racial slur targeting Chinese people written with an arrow pointing at Gui’s face on one of her signs.
To their credit, Calgary police are investigating this vandalism as a hate crime.
And Calgary UCP candidate Jasraj Singh Hallan says he’s had four large street signs and 36 lawn signs damaged, sharing a Facebook photo of one that was ripped in half.
He also had a group of teenagers show up at his campaign office and shout racial slurs at him, an act that clearly crosses the line from vandalism to abuse.
Clearly, this is not a partisan matter.
As Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt told the CBC, “every party is convinced that they’re the ones being targeted more than anybody else.”
It would appear based on the anecdotal evidence that ethnic minorities are the most frequently and aggressively targeted by vandals, not any particular party. Medicine Hat Police Service Insp. Joe West has said this hasn’t been too major an issue in Medicine Hat during this election, but reminds people that defacing election signs on other people’s property is a form of criminal mischief.
However, he acknowledged, “It would be a pretty extreme circumstance before we charge somebody with criminal mischief.”
That said, if you are caught defacing somebody’s election sign, you could face a fine.
“At the end of the day, people need to exercise some common sense and realize it is private property. Somebody’s bought and paid for that sign, and there are consequences if you get caught,” said West.
Perhaps we should do away with lawn signs to encourage people to research the issues and think for themselves, voting for who they think has the best policies, not who’s most popular.
But while we have election signs, there’s no defence for defacing them, regardless of what one thinks of a particular party’s policies or its leader’s character.
As West put it, “The best way to make a point isn’t with vandalizing a sign, it’s with a vote.”