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Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. It’s that time of year when political signs dot just about every inch of the landscape of Lincoln County. With several hotly contested seats up for re-election, or not - four people running for three commissioner seats, four people running for two city council seats, and 11 people running for four board of education seats – well, that’s a lot of signage.

Or maybe not.

Some of these signs are going missing or getting destroyed. It’s perhaps no surprise that the bulk of these signs are Biden/Harris signs, but signs for Republican candidate Heather Rhyne who’s running for re-election on the school board are going missing as well. Within Lincolnton City limits, a large Biden/Harris banner was first damaged, the property owner repaired it, then sometime late in the night, it was completely removed. A police report has been filed. A homeowner on Reepsville Road in Lincolnton got so frustrated with his Biden/Harris sign continually being damaged or removed, it put it up on a 20-foot-high pole. This time, someone shot bullet holes it.

Times-News reached out to Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam who said that he would file charges against anyone caught stealing or damaging political signs but catching the individual(s) is the tricky part. Some homeowners are training game cameras on their signs in an attempt to catch the perpetrators.

According to a press release sent out by Beam in early September, his office has received a number of complaints about stolen political signs. The complaints had come from both the

Democrat and Republican Parties over the past few weeks and involved mostly presidential signs.

Anyone found in violation of N.C. GS 136-32 will be charged by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, according to the press release. N.C. GS § 136-32. Regulation of Signs, reads in part - (e) Penalties for Unlawful Removal of Signs. - It is a Class 3 misdemeanor for a person to steal, deface, vandalize, or unlawfully remove a political sign that is lawfully placed under this section. (f) Application Within Municipalities.

- Pursuant to Article 8 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes, a city may by ordinance prohibit or regulate the placement of political signs on rights-of-way of streets located within the corporate limits of a municipality and maintained by the municipality. Any such ordinance shall provide that any political sign that remains in a right-of-way of streets located within the corporate limits of a municipality and maintained by the municipality more than 30 days after the end of the period prescribed in the ordinance is to be deemed unlawfully placed and abandoned property, and a person may remove and dispose of such political sign without penalty. In the absence of an ordinance prohibiting or regulating the placement of political signs on the rights-of-way of streets located within a municipality and maintained by the municipality, the provisions of subsections (b) through (e) of this section shall apply. 

N.C. GS 136-32 also states that these signs can be put up on the 30th day before the beginning of “one stop” early voting and ending on the 10th day after the primary or election day. Any political sign remaining in the right-of-way of the state highway system more than 30 days after the end of the period prescribed in this subsection shall be deemed unlawfully placed and abandoned property, and a person may remove and dispose of such political sign without penalty.

One Stop Voting begins on Thursday in Lincoln County and election day is, of course, Nov. 3. Perhaps those perpetrators who have been taking political signs could be employed to take them all down after Nov. 3. One can only hope.

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