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Everyone deserves a voice

Just as retailers begin stocking the shelves with Christmas items long before Halloween arrives, candidates vying for local political offices are already rushing to get their messages out to the voters who will go to the polls in August by way of signs along the highways and back roads of Johnson County. Along with the emergence of these reminders is the ugliness that seems to permeate all aspects of politics as sign displacement and defacement has already been reported.

While we are all free to like or dislike any particular individual or political party, it is important to realize people are free to run for whatever office they choose with few restrictions, and the voters, by secret ballot, are free to pass judgment when election day arrives. On that note, it is of utmost importance that all candidates have a fair chance to be heard, and attempting to stifle that freedom is essentially snubbing a large part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A second reason for refraining from taking or defacing campaign signs is that it is illegal to do so. The culprit who decides to remove a sign is committing theft while someone who damages or defaces a political sign may be committing several illegal offenses including “malicious injury to property” and “injury by graffiti.”

Finally, the process of running for political office, whether on a national scale or in Johnson County, is expensive for candidates. They must purchase all of the campaign materials themselves, and unlike politicians on the national scale, they are not reimbursed and they cannot count campaign expenses as deductions on federal income taxes. These pens, cards, matches, nail files and signs being displayed and distributed were purchased with real money, by real people, who desire your vote in August.
Want to know what a candidate feels in regards to a particular issue? The best avenue to take to obtain the truth is to ask the candidate. Also, this newspaper and the local radio station are planning forums in the near future to allow local candidates to introduce themselves and answer questions pertinent to the office they are seeking.
Another thing to keep in mind is the scope of the office the candidate seeks. For example, most of the county officials are bound by law to carry out specific duties and are dependent upon funding in order to carry out plans. Some candidates may promise the impossible and an educated voter should know when they are doing so. If unsure as to the responsibilities of a particular office, a good place to visit is www.ctas.tennessee.edu, the County Technical Assistance Service sponsored by the University of Tennessee. This comprehensive website contains a wealth of information in regards to county government and it’s functions.

Finally, during the general election four years ago, some terrible lies were circulated in regards to some of the candidates. It is unfortunate that the political season appears to bring out the worst in some people, and no doubt, those same people may believe that fabricating an outlandish story or stealing campaign signs or defacing them is an acceptable part of the political process.