CLEVELAND -- An outdoor advertising company says it is pulling down voter-fraud billboards in the swing states of Ohio and Wisconsin after complaints that they were meant to intimidate voters.
A group of civil rights attorneys and a Cleveland city councilwoman had charged that the billboards discouraged lawful voting, especially by blacks. Polls have shown that black voters heavily support Democratic President Barack Obama.
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Clear Channel Outdoor said Monday that some 145 billboards in Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee were being taken down. The billboards warn: "Voter Fraud Is A Felony!" punishable by up to three and one-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Clear Channel Outdoor has refused to identify who is behind the billboards. However, the company said in a statement that it decided the billboards violate its policy against anonymous political ads and asked the client what it wanted to do to conform to the policy. The company said the anonymous client thought it was best to take them down.
City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland called the decision "fantastic news," telling The Plain Dealer of Cleveland that she thinks there has been damage done, but that it can be repaired.
The company has donated 10 other billboards with the message that "Voting Is A Right. Not A Crime!" The Cleveland City Council will pay for five more of the billboards, and the Washington-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law has said it is paying for some 36 billboards in Cleveland and Milwaukee that promote voting.