Posted on September 2, 2020

The Latest Battlefield in a Heated Presidential Campaign: Front Yards Bearing Biden Signs

Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, August 29, 202

Across Pennsylvania — especially in rural communities — tens of thousands of yard signs supporting Joe Biden have popped up as his fans try to replicate how President Trump showed his growing support in the state when he was campaigning in 2016. And, just as quickly, some of those signs have been vanishing.

It usually happens in the dark of night, local Democrats say, but sometimes in daylight. Sometimes entire streets or neighborhoods are cleared. Pro-Biden Facebook groups have devoted long threads to strategies for deterring sign snatchers — one suggestion involves clear hair gel and pesky glitter, another electrifying the metal frame with a car battery.

While sign thefts are a problem every election year for candidates of both parties — and are an ongoing source of headaches for campaign staffers and party officials — some Democrats in Pennsylvania and several other states insist it’s worse for them this year and illustrates the emotional intensity of the coming election. While there are examples of Trump signs also disappearing, there hasn’t been the same level of public outcry.


In 2016, rural Pennsylvania was plastered with Trump signage — an early warning to Democrats that the Republican could win the state {snip}

Ahead of that election, Jeff Eggleston, a Democratic commissioner in Pennsylvania’s Warren County, ordered a few thousand pro-Clinton signs and delivered them to rural communities in his minivan.

This spring, he figured the Biden campaign would, like Clinton’s, lack a mass yard-sign-distribution plan, so he came up with one of his own. The first batch of 12,000 was delivered in mid-July, and as photos circulated on social media, Eggleston received a crush of requests for more. So far he has helped with orders of more than 92,000 signs and expects to soon hit 100,000. {snip}


Just as the first signs were being delivered, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Rural Caucus Chairman Terry Noble said he caught three young boys on bikes — one wearing a “Don’t tread on me” T-shirt — with a ripped-up Biden sign. He snapped their photo and tried to explain that the country accommodates a diversity of opinions and that “people have the right to be heard in that debate and in that discussion.”

Noble, an attorney in Clearfield County, soon learned that his experience was not isolated. A pro-Biden Facebook group in Pennsylvania has filled with stories of missing signs — and strategies for fortifying signs from theft.

The easiest option, many have advised, is to put the sign inside a window or bring it in at night — or order a flag or banner that can be mounted high off the ground. Others have invested in motion-activated cameras or have placed signs within sight of doorbell cameras. One woman stapled her sign to a porch railing, and another positioned hers in a poison ivy patch.

And then there are suggestions about what to spread or spray on their signs to prevent theft or punish the thief: ground-up ghost peppers that irritate bare skin. A mixture of peppermint oil and Vicks. Fox, deer or coyote urine purchased at a sporting goods store. Slippery olive oil or grease. Vaseline and cayenne pepper. Vaseline and glitter. Vaseline, Tabasco sauce and glitter. Vaseline and pink glitter. Honey and glitter. Dog poop and glitter.

Glitter is key, according to numerous women in the group, because once it gets on your hands or in your car, it will be there for weeks. Maybe years. “Glitter is the herpes of the crafting world,” one woman declared in a social media post.

Noble has encouraged those who’ve had their signs stolen to write a letter to their local newspaper and has circulated a prototype. It reads, in part: “This isn’t either a joke or prank, it’s another step towards chaos and away from law and order and our Constitution. It’s thievery. . . . Ask yourself, ‘Is this the America I really want?’ We are better than this as a people and as a Nation.”