The 2010 Census found that Pinal County’s population is at 375,770, which, by state law, stipulates the county must add two new supervisors to its governing board, according to Joe Pyritz, a county spokesman.
According to Arizona law — Arizona Revised Statute 11-211 — counties with a population of 175,000 or more persons must have a board of five supervisors.
According to Mr. Johnson, political signs have monetary value and anyone found to deface or steal a political sign will be arrested and charged with both theft and criminal damage.
Both charges are Class 2 misdemeanors, according to a Sept. 20 press release. The Arizona Revised Statute governing political signs is 16-1019.
PCSO officials say they want to get ahead of the curve this political season informing residents of the repercussions of political-sign theft.
“We want to meet this at the head when we see it starting,” he said of adding patrols to Pinal County deputy beats. “We don’t catch them in the act oftentimes and it is not easy to actually catch them.”
Mr. Johnson says Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is a strong constitutionalist and expects all viewpoints to be allowed to be displayed at appropriate areas of San Tan Valley and Pinal County.
“Sheriff Babeu is a big advocate of people’s rights ... it is still that person’s right of speech even though it is on a sign,” he explained of the importance of making sure all appropriate signs are kept up. “If we allow this kind of activity to start it just snowballs.”
PCSO Lt. John Ellsworth, who oversees Patrol Region B — encompassing both Saddlebrook and portions of San Tan Valley — says he has issued a special alert for deputies to be on the lookout for political sign theft and defacement.
“Sheriff Babeu has repeatedly made it clear the rule of law will be enforced,” he said in the press release. “I have issued a regionwide directive to all patrol staff and supervisors within Region B to be on special alert for any criminal activity involving the tampering with, or removal of political signage. Enforcement action will be taken against any identified violators.”
Sheriff Babeu says he is mandating that all residents have the right to exercise his or her freedom of speech.
“Freedom of speech is a right every American has and are protected by law to express, regardless of their political views or affiliation,” he said in the release. “We will protect that right for all citizens and prosecute violators to the full extent of the law.”
Mr. Johnson says he expects all political viewpoints to be offered through signage throughout Pinal County as the November 2012 election approaches.
“You can play, but you have to play nice and you have to play fair,” he said.
Political sign law
Editor’s note: Arizona Revised Statute 16-1019 outlines the laws pertaining to political sign theft and tampering. It states:
It is a Class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign of any candidate for public office or knowingly remove, alter or deface any political mailers, handouts, flyers or other printed materials of a candidate that are delivered by hand to a residence for the period commencing forty-five days before a primary election and ending seven days after the general election.