Featured photo: Anonymous signs were posted next to Democratic school board candidates’ yard signs in Winston-Salem on Monday. (screenshot)

Local Democrats were surprised Monday to find not that some of their roadside election signs had been vandalized or stolen, but that they had some company.

Drivers in East Winston-Salem and Silas Creek Parkway, among other places, foundblack signs with conspiracy-minded disinformation placed next to some signs for Democratic candidates who are running for Forsyth County School Board.

Deanna Kaplan, for instance, had a simple black sign next to her official campaign sign with an “A-Team” style military font stating, “LOCKED YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF SCHOOL.” Another candidate, Richard Watts, had a similar sign pop up next to his that says, “SUPPORTS BOYS IN THE GIRLS LOCKER ROOM.”

No one has claimed responsibility. 

Local Democrat and head of Winston-Salem Ambassadors Mackenzie Cates-Allen said that she was “horrified” when she saw them.

“I know these candidates,” she said, “and the signs appearing next to the official candidate signs were very concerning and blatantly false.”

There are no markings that identify the sign’s creators or if they are from opponents’ campaigns.

Anonymous signs were posted next to Democratic school board candidates’ yard signs in Winston-Salem on Monday. (screenshot)

The vague messages meant to inflame and mislead low-information voters before a midterm election imply a trope popular with many right-wing circles across the nation: that the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t enough cause to shut down public schools and that “gender-affirming” measures will allow sexual predators into places where children will be vulnerable. No evidence exists to support claims of sexual predators taking advantage of so-called “Bathroom Laws” and there have been more than 1 million deaths associated with COVID-19 in the United States as of this writing. 

Vice Chair of the Forsyth County Democrat Party Angela Hadjian Levine, recommended that campaign workers move their candidate’s sign away from the false information rather than try to take them up.

“We don’t know who put them up,” she said, “but we contacted the head of elections in Forsyth County to clarify what we could do with them.” 

Tim Tsujii, Director of Elections in Forsyth County responded in an email to Cates Allen that the signs were legally placed.

“Due to First Amendment rights, this is considered protected speech and those signs cannot be removed,” he wrote. “Additionally, a legend or ‘paid for by….’ is not required because the sign does not state or mention a candidate.”

Attempts to contact Republican candidates about the signs went unreturned for this story.

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