A Dublin area woman is just one of several campaign volunteers, Democrat and Republican, who say signs legally posted outside the state's right of way have been disappearing.
"I feel like my rights are being taken away," said Toni Conner, a Kerry supporter. Conner said several signs she has erected in the Dublin area have disappeared.
"I know it's not the state doing it," Conner said, "because only the Democratic signs are missing."
Conner said signs have disappeared several times in the area around Bladen Community College, N.C. 41 and N.C. 410.
"Everybody has the right to disagree," Conner said, "but nobody has the right to go knocking down other people's sign."
State road workers remove signs within the highway rights of way, under state law. The Department of Transportation stores collected signs at the DOT shops near White Lake. Those that are not picked up are discarded at the end of the election.
Bladen County Sheriff Steve Bunn said removal of a sign from private property is a crime, as long as the landowner has given permission for the sign to be placed. The state has the legal right to remove signs only from the right of way.
"It is a larceny," he said, "and we will investigate it and treat it as such."
Landowners may remove signs erected without their permission, Bunn said. The signs should be kept until the candidate can be contacted.
"No one can leave a sign on your property without your permission," Bunn said. "If you don't want it there, you can take it down, period."
Unauthorized removal of signs should be reported to the Sheriff's Department, Bunn said.
"It helps if you can identify the person or get a tag number from their vehicle," Bunn said. "Elsewise, it's kind of hard to track them down."
After the election, though, sign are generally much harder to get removed.
Candidates are responsible for removal of their own campaign signs, but no local law require the signs be taken down in a set period of time. After some recent municipal elections, town officials in Elizabethtown, White Lake, and elsewhere discussed requiring a "cleanup bond" for candidates and political organizations, but no action was taken on the issue.
Modern political signs are often made of weatherproof materials that take years to deteriorate. If a sign is legally set outside the right of way, state cleanup crews will not remove it, even months after an election.
Elections Supervisor Larry Hammond, after the last municipal elections, called the leftover signs "shameful."
"Cleaning up signs should be a part of any campaign, successful or not," Hammond said last year.