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In Cleveland, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, Billboards Saying "Voter Fraud is a Felony" are Racist
This is from the famous Ohio paper "The Plain Dealer":
Clear Channel Outdoor will remove 30 billboards across the city that drew complaints of racism and intimidation with their message of "Voter fraud is a felony," the company said Saturday night.
Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, said the billboards will come down immediately. He said the company continues its donation of 10 other billboards that will have messages to counter the offending ones.
City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who objected to the billboards and helped lead the push for others to respond to them, called Clear Channel's decision "fantastic news."
"That's a wonderful resolution to this issue," she said.
Cleveland's black community and civil rights activists begain complaining earlier this month about the billboards, which state that voter fraud is punishable by up to 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The ads also show a gavel.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., noted that the billboards were placed in predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhoods in Cleveland, as well as in Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The group sent a letter to Clear Channel Outdoor requesting that the company take down the signs.
Clear Channel had said it could not remove them because its client, a private, out-of-state family foundation, has a contract that keeps them in place through Nov. 6, Election Day. The contract also has a clause keeping the name of the family foundation anonymous.
The company has said it has a policy against putting anonymous political messages on its billboard and that it erred in agreeing to that contract.
On Saturday, Clear Channel still declined to reveal the name of its client, but said it wanted to correct the error.
"We reviewed the situation, and in light of the fact that these billboards violate our policy of not accepting anonymous political ads, we asked the client how they would prefer to work with us to bring the boards into conformance with our policy," Cullinan said in an email to The Plain Dealer. "The client thought the best solution was to take the boards down, so we are in the process of removing them."
Opponents had already negotiated with Clear Channel to have the company donate use of 10 billboards that will be visible Monday and carry the message
"Voting Is a Right. Not a Crime!" Cleveland City Council will pay for five more to carry the same message.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law has also paid for about 36 billboards that went up Thursday in Cleveland and Milwaukee in predominantly Latino and black neighborhoods that read, "Stand up and have your say -- Vote. When we vote, we are all equal."
Additional billboards with the same message will be posted next week in Columbus and Cincinnati, the group said.
Cleveland said the decision to remove the billboards is "a great example of free speech in action." The original billboards were free speech she said, and so was the community's response.
"I think damage was done, but I don't think it's irreparable," Cleveland said. "I think taking them down and putting up other billboards will be an effective way of countering it."
Voter fraud billboards that drew complaints of racism and intimidation will come down, Clear Channel says
Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer, Oct. 21st, 2012
Wait a minute. The Democrats say voter fraud is not a problem. So why should this be offensive to anyone?