The anonymous funder of more than 140 threatening billboards in black and Latino neighborhoods across Ohio and Wisconsin has chosen to take down the ads rather than identify itself, according to Reuters. The billboards played on the myth of “voter fraud,” invoking law and order images like a judge’s gavel over the words “Voter Fraud Is a Felony!” and listing jail time as punishment.
Civil rights groups charged the billboards were meant to frighten lawful and confused voters away from the polls. Color of Change launched a petition demanding Clear Channel remove the ads, as the company has done previously with campaigns it deemed too controversial.
According to Reuters, Clear Channel belatedly invoked its policy against anonymous political advertising. When offered the choice between identifying itself and removing the ads, the “private family foundation” behind them chose to take them down, Clear Channel said.
The billboards appear in Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee, and will begin coming down today. They popped up just as early voting began in Ohio. Reports of similar scare tactics, such as robo-calls and threatening flyers, designed to deter voters in black and Latino neighborhoods recur each election year as polls begin to open. As Brentin Mock has reported for Colorlines, early voting has been a crucial part of increasing black turnout and tea party groups in states like Ohio and Florida have worked to limit it, under the guise of combatting voter fraud. There remains no meaningful evidence of voter fraud in early voting, or on Election Day for that matter.