More and more yard signs are popping up throughout Jefferson County as Wisconsin becomes the center of attention next week for both political parties.
On Monday, a mostly virtual version of the Democratic National Convention will take place in Milwaukee with former Vice President Joe Biden expected to accept the nomination virtually. But whether he will show up in person for the convention took another turn this week as President Donald Trump plans an in-person rally that same day in Oshkosh.
As a state that is expected to be a key battleground for both parties, the race is getting closer, with Biden polling at 49 percent and Trump at 44 percent, according to a recent Marquette Law School poll.
And as the candidates focus more on Wisconsin, residents are putting political signs in yards supporting their chosen candidate in presidential, Congressional and state races.
However, not all of them have stayed put. Recently, some Fort Atkinson residents have reported their Biden signs have gone missing.
“My neighbor’s sign was stolen, and there were a few on East Sherman and plenty on Riverside Drive,” said Ann Engelman, who resides along East Sherman Avenue.
That was confirmed by Jim Marousis of Fort Atkinson, who said that five or six Biden yard signs were stolen along Riverside Drive during the past 10 days. Two of them were crumpled and tossed in the ditch about 40 yards down the street as it turns into State Highway 106 heading west out of town.
“We replaced them the next day with 4-by-2-foot plywood Biden signs zip-tied to steel posts. Same for one Biden sign stolen on Jackson Street,” Marousis said.
He said that he filed a report with the police, telling the officer that he was willing to press charges “in the unlikely event that the perpetrator was identified.
“The policeman that I spoke with, Officer Walters, said that Trump signs had been stolen as well,” Marousis said.
The Republican Party of Jefferson County was not able to be reached for comment by presstime.
Meanwhile, Marousis added that several Biden signs in Lake Mills were stolen. They, too, were replaced with the larger plywood signs.
“Eight of the plywood signs were put up in a rural area north of Watertown and were gone the next day,” said Marousis. “They have not been replaced.”
In a recent letter to the editor by Steve Bower, chair of the Democratic Party of Jefferson County, wrote that the Lake Mills “residents who placed these signs did so to communicate a political message. Removing them is against the state law,” which reads, in part: “No person may deface, destroy or remove any legally placed election campaign sign. …”
The Lake Mills Police Department was notified, he said.
“If you have a candidate you like, put out their yard sign. Join their campaign committee. Write letters to the editor about why you support them. Stand up. And stop stealing your neighbor’s property,” Bower advised in his letter.
Fort Atkinson Police Department Capt. Jeff Davis reiterated that removing yard signs is stealing.
“Taking a political sign can fall into the trespassing category and vandalism,” he said. “No different if they take the planter from a front porch,” he said.
He said that in past election years, his department has received calls on sign thefts.
“We have gotten calls on them,” said Capt. Jeff Davis. “We go and take a complaint, and (look at) if there are suspects or any evidence.”
Meanwhile, next week at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin are among the Wisconsin office-holders who will speak.
The four-day event that starts Monday to formally nominate Biden as the Democratic candidate for president has been scaled back to a nearly all virtual event due to the coronavirus.
But Wisconsin officials still will have prominent roles, based on details released by the Democratic National Convention Committee on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, whose Milwaukee district includes the site of the convention, will speak on the opening night Monday.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will call the convention to order on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Milwaukee native and longtime Democratic Party operative Jason Rae will direct the roll call of the states in his job as convention secretary.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is also from Milwaukee, will lead the Wisconsin delegation in delivering its votes to nominate Biden.
Evers is slated to speak Wednesday night, with Baldwin getting a spot on Thursday in the lead up to Biden’s acceptance speech.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.