Please, just leave those campaign signs alone

Which one of these doesn’t belong: A) Baseball. B) Hot dogs. C) Apple pie. D) Vandalizing campaign signs.

If you guessed D, you are correct, of course, at least according to the TV jingle that Chevrolet made famous during the mid-1970s.

But despite the warnings issued every campaign season that removing, defacing or destroying campaign signs is punishable by up to $1,000 fine under state law, vandalizing campaign signs is no less a part of our political culture today as misleading TV ads, push polls and those annoying telephone recordings at suppertime.

If you don’t believe that, just ask Glenn Gauthier, the Nashua business owner who was featured prominently in a front-page story on this very topic several weeks ago.

Earlier this year, the owner of Gauthier Realty erected a large 4-foot-by-8-foot Mitt Romney for president sign outside his Amherst Street business on Library Hill. There it remained until about a month ago, when it was stolen between a Friday night and Saturday morning.

Gauthier replaced it with a similar-sized Romney sign, this time higher off the ground, with a smaller sign below that read: “Steal this sign. You will go to jail.”

Did it work? Well, yes and no. On the morning the story appeared in The Telegraph on Oct. 3, an unknown vandal tossed black paint on the sign. Fortunately, when the paint was discovered by employees arriving for work, it was still wet and able to be wiped off.

There are times when the stealing or defacing of political signs is nothing more than a childish prank – what one person we interviewed referred to as “nonpartisan ding-dongery” – but there are certainly other times when the removal of signs is politically motivated.

That was the case several years ago when the husband of then-state Sen. Bette Lasky, a Democrat, was photographed taking down “Bette Lasky: Higher taxes” signs that had been placed near her own by opponents in the days leading up to the 2010 election. Nashua police instructed him to return the signs to Republican Party headquarters, which he did.

And earlier this year, the 20-year-old daughter of state Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, was charged with theft after she was spotted by an off-duty police officer removing a sign belonging to a Democratic opponent and placing it in her car.

While we understand what might motivate someone to want to take down an opponent’s sign, we’re not quite sure what they think they will accomplish by actually doing so.

Do they really have such a low opinion of their fellow voters that they honestly believe removing signs of the opposing candidate will automatically translate into votes for their own?

Or, using the Library Hill incident as an example, if Gauthier had chosen not to replace the stolen sign, does anyone believe Romney would have received fewer votes in Nashua on Election Day?

We realize the pressure to do something to help a political candidate is only going to grow more intense in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

If so, do yourself a favor. Put up a sign on your own property. Volunteer to make telephone calls or leaflet your neighborhood. Make a political donation.

But don’t drive around with the purpose of stealing or defacing signs of candidates you oppose.

Beyond the fact that it’s petty, illegal and a serious infringement of your neighbor’s rights to free speech, this type of behavior has a way these days of making you the unwitting star of your own humiliating video in today’s YouTube world.