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The recent court case, in which a campaign worker was fined for taking a couple of signs belonging to a rival candidate, got me to thinking how the justice system treats such matters.
Going by the letter of the law, taking a candidate’s sign from someone’s lawn or business is theft. But it is much more. It is a form of voter suppression. Of course it doesn’t rise to the level of goons standing in front of a polling place intimidating voters — as has happened in the past presidential election. But it is a serious matter.
Just as it makes sense to require voters to show a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID in order to reduce the fraudulent voting that has marked the past two president elections, it makes sense to change the way we deal with crimes like taking another candidate’s signs. While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seems to turn a blind eye to voter fraud for blatantly political reasons, our City Council should consider taking some positive action regarding this mater.
Perhaps a new section to the Burbank Municipal Code could address the taking of candidates’ signs. There should be a distinction between teenage pranks and the deliberate acts of adults. It would be more appropriate than labeling the crime as “theft.”
In the case of Scott Trinidad, a volunteer for School Board candidate Steve Ferguson, who was caught on surveillance video taking two signs for rival candidate Char Tabet, he was charged with theft. Because the value of the items taken (about $8 for the two signs) was under $50, the crime was an infraction. That’s similar to getting a minor traffic ticket. After his plea in court, he was fined $200. When the penalties required by the State of California were added to it, the price tag was close to $950. That is a hefty penalty to pay. Perhaps a more appropriate penalty would have been community service — something like taking down all the old campaign signs after the election on April 9, is over.