How One Ohio Community Built Back Better after their Biden/Harris signs were stolen

by Hillary Lewis

Sign theft and vandalism and downright interpersonal intimidation has been rampant in rural and suburban areas in my state of Ohio. Everyday people have proudly posted photos of their Biden/Harris yard signs or sometimes extravagantly Biden themed decorated front yards, only to also share photos of bare wire stands where their signs once stood or a placard spray-painted with the word, “Trump” or “MAGA.”

Political shenanigans and pranks are nothing new but people were tired of having to ask for sign replacements or worse afraid to openly voice their support for their candidate. In some areas it has become so bad that yard signs aren’t allowed in retirement villages, like Bristol Village, in Waverly, Ohio. Since the Obama/Romney race in 2012 where octogenarians were stealing their neighbors’ yard signs, it has become a rule to only allow signage on your house to show your support for your candidate. And in 2016, forget about Hillary Clinton signs. There is the adage that Ronnie Mook’s organizers often repeated, “Signs Don’t Vote and we have the data to win this race.” As a volunteer during that election, I was getting constant requests for signs and as I repeated that mantra, I realized that SIGNS MATTER. Signs matter especially in suburban and rural areas because for one thing — they have YARDS — and for another thing in towns where Friday night high school football games or in a state like Ohio where EVERYBODY is insane over Ohio State v Michigan (I personally could care less), school spirit and political support mean something. I find it is also a way to get your voice heard without having to tell your neighbor across the street with that Trump/Pence sign where you stand and you can keep the day to day peace.

So about a week ago I read an article (or post) about some Michigan Biden supporters who were sick and tired of all of the theft & intimidation and decided to do something else to get back at the vandals. They pooled their monies together and purchased a giant highway billboard emblazoned with BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT. I was so inspired the more I thought about how I could help my Pike County friends get their voices heard. I was saddened that people were having to keep their choice to themselves but emboldened on the billboard sign idea — especially so after a some 600 pick up truck TRUMP parade drove through four counties down here over the weekend. The morale around here was palpable…I didn’t witness the parade but heard about it from some depressed volunteers.

I belong to a group of about 5 women who I met when I was volunteer Staging Director for GOTV for HRC — we communicate via Messenger throughout the day. They are mostly 30-something professional women with families and I believe all have lived in Waverly, OH most of their lives. (I haven’t — I moved here in 2015 after a failed clothing line launch in New York City to reset and redefine my career from apparel designer to illustrator & digital design and to care for my 93-year old mother who has lived here in Bristol Village since 2001. After the trauma of volunteering in a battleground state in 2016, I knew I would have to stay at least through 2020.) Anyway, I posited the idea to them and Cindi suggested I look into the Digital Billboard on US Hwy 23, which goes straight through Waverly and is a major thoroughfare from Columbus to Portsmouth, OH. I made a few calls and then physically drove to the billboard location and looked for the name of the company who owns the billboard. LAMAR was at the bottom of the sign.

I googled LAMAR and up popped up Lamar Advertising, a national advertising company with offices around the country. I called the Columbus number and asked who handled that billboard in my town. They sent me to a sales rep, Randy Ritter, and he sent me a quote. While it was surprisingly reasonable, I still asked for any sort of discount (I worked in wholesale apparel), but Randy reminded me that the prices are set and because there are campaign finance guidelines that we all must follow (tell that to Trump).

I went back to my group (we are now calling us the Pike County Underground) with the info and I’m not sure where I got the idea for a gofundme but basically that was the next step we took. I am terrible with money (like I was the kid who ate all of my girl scout cookies and had mom make out a check) and so I didn’t want to be putting stuff on my credit card and then spending the money that people would give me. The gofundme was perfect, we were able to contact friends and fellow Biden supporters and raised the money over night. This was possible because we live in a more than likely cheaper advertising market and digital billboard is surprisingly reasonable. Randy sent me an e-signature contract, I prepaid with my credit card and I sent him over artwork which will be going live tonight at midnight!

The artwork is just a 72 dpi 400x840 px RGB file and we can send as many messages we want. Each message appears for 8 seconds and appears every minute 24 hours 7 days a week starting midnight tonight through Election Day! I am sort of afraid that this is going to catch on with Trump people but for now, they have signs and we have a BILLBOARD. Like Joe says, “BUILD BACK BETTER.”

Our gofundme was a success and excess funds are going towards payment for a Pike County customized postcard drive to Get Out The Vote.” Ross County Democrats also have not confirmed a billboard yet. Also here is the gofundme link to our fundraiser if you would like to donate.

United4Joe is part of the Biden Digital Coalition, a grassroots group amplifying Biden’s message on social media. Malarkey Free Zone. Not affiliated w/campaign.