I received an email today from Credo.com about billboards using voter suppression tactics on target groups:
It's one of the nastiest voter suppression schemes we've seen: this week, in African American and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin, an anonymous group started running outrageous billboards that try to scare people away from voting.1 The billboards are hosted by Clear Channel, a media conglomerate owned by Bain Capital - the same company that Mitt Romney co-founded.2
In key battleground states nationwide, Republicans are hyping an irrational fear of "voter fraud" to provide cover while they work to disenfranchise eligible voters. The truth is, voter fraud is exceedingly rare. More Americans are struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. The real problem, the one that can affect the outcome of our elections if we're not vigilant, is voter suppression.
Allowing an anonymous advertiser to create an atmosphere of fear around voting just as the early voting period begins is unacceptable. There should be an extremely high standard to ask a media company to refuse to erect a billboard based on content. But we believe these anonymously funded billboards that have no other purpose than to intimidate minority voters and take away their voting rights meets that standard. And as Clear Channel has rejected billboard ads many times in the past,3 the company should have no problems rejecting these.
CREDO is joining with our allies at ColorOfChange to demand that Clear Channel immediately take down these misleading billboards erected on behalf of an anonymous client.
Join the members of ColorOfChange in demanding that Clear Channel take down these billboards. Sign your name to the following letter we'll send to Clear Channel on your behalf.
Dear Clear Channel CEOs Bob Pittman and William Eccleshare,
I am writing to demand that you take down the billboards that have cropped up in Black and Latino neighborhoods in recent weeks and that employ tactics meant to scare people away from voting. While you may not have crafted the message, your company is in fact the messenger.
These billboards, which read "Voter Fraud is a Felony," are clearly designed to intimidate voters of color and keep those communities away from the polls. That these billboards did not appear in white or suburban neighborhoods is proof of their discriminatory nature.
Allowing an anonymous advertiser to create an atmosphere of fear around voting just as the early voting period begins is unacceptable. I ask that you remove these billboards at once. I know that in the past, you have rejected billboard ads. This campaign of misinformation fits that criteria and is a dangerous disservice to the African American and Latino communities in which they are placed.
Please remove these billboards immediately.
Tell Clear Channel immediately take down those billboards.
Thank you for taking action.
I signed it and encourage you to sign the petition telling Clear Channel to take the billboards down.
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - More than 140 billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin warning of the criminal consequences of voter fraud will be taken down starting on Monday after the sponsor chose to remove them rather than reveal its identity, the billboard owner said.
The billboards, which show a large judge's gavel and read "Voter Fraud is a felony - up to 3 ½ years and a $10,000 fine," went up primarily in low-income minority neighborhoods in early October, just weeks before the November 6 elections, and were immediately criticized by voter rights groups as an attempt to intimidate minority voters.
The sponsor was not identified on the billboards owned by Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. The company said this was a violation of its policy against anonymous political ads.
After discussions, the sponsor, whom Clear Channel Outdoor has called a "private family foundation" but declined to name, "thought the best solution was to take the boards down, so we are in the process of removing them," the company said in a statement.
Crews on Monday will begin taking down 30 billboards in Cleveland, 30 in Columbus and 85 in Milwaukee, Jim Cullinan, vice president of corporate communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, told Reuters.
Cleveland City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, one of the most vocal critics of the billboards, told Reuters on Sunday: "Needless to say I'm happy they will be taken down but I want to know who was behind this in the first place."
In response to the outcry, Clear Channel Outdoor donated 10 billboards around the Cleveland area that read "Voting Is a Right. Not a Crime!"