Billboards posted in low-income and minority areas throughout Milwaukee that warn "Voter Fraud is a Felony" are another attempt at voter suppression and should be taken down, several community groups said Monday.
"Clear Channel, take these billboards down," said Mike Wilder, director of the African-American Round Table, as others chanted in agreement.
Clear Chanel Outdoor is the advertising company that owns the billboards.
The billboard states that it's paid for by "a private family foundation."
Wilder said he's counted about 20 of these billboards in the African-American and Latino communities.
In addition to warning about voter fraud, the sign adds that the penalty for voter fraud is "Up to 31/2 years and $100,000 fine."
"Voter rights are under attack every which way possible," Wilder and others said, adding that a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification was halted in the courts.
The billboards are similar to ones posted in the fall of 2010 in advance of the November elections.
"This is the same anti-voter garbage from 2010," said Scot Ross, executive director of the Institute for One Wisconsin, a liberal special-interest group. "Wisconsin knows the only real fraud is partisans who attack the franchise to further their political goals."
Nathan Conrad, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said the party "takes election fraud and voter integrity very seriously. However we have no connection to the billboards in question put up by a private citizen."
"We want Clean Channel to act responsibly and the replace these billboards with information to inform voters and give them information on how to vote," said Jennifer Epps-Addison, of the liberal group Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "These billboards are meant to confuse and scare voters."
She said a call was made to Clear Channel and a voice message left, asking the company to take down the billboards, but she said the call had not been returned. She said a letter would be sent Monday with the request.
Jim Cullinan, vice president of corporate communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, said in an email that 85 billboards contain the message, and that they will not be taken down.
He said the billboards are not only in the African-American and Hispanic areas, but also throughout the Milwaukee area.
"We can't comment on the intention or motive of the advertiser," he said. He added that the company does not comment on advertiser's campaigns.
He said the ads were put up two weeks ago. He added that the advertiser put into its contract that it wanted to remain anonymous.
"It is our policy to require any advertiser, including political advertisers, to have a disclaimer which identifies themselves," he said. "This was not done on this ad, which was a mistake, but we can't change the contract now and the ads will remain up."
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