Billboards touting penalties of voter fraud criticized by some

MILWAUKEE — Protesters are demanding that dozens of billboards on display in Milwaukee’s black and Latino neighborhoods be taken down. The signs all read: “Voter fraud is a felony! Up to 3 1/2 years & $10,000 fine.” Some say these signs are meant to intimidate poor, minority voters.

On Monday, October 15th, several Milwaukee area groups held a news conference, demanding these billboards be taken down. This, after the company that created the billboards said they made a mistake, but said they won’t be removing the billboards.

“Is there any number on the billboard? Is there any information on that billboard that would help a voter cast their ballot in a responsible way? There is not because that billboard is not aimed at helping people have access to the polls — it’s aimed at suppressing black and Latino votes,” Jennifer Epps-Addison of Citizen Action of Wisconsin said.

Larry Gamble says his group, Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty, is not connected to the signs, but he supports their message.

“We see billboards like that as actually being very educational because there are people that don’t understand there are penalties for attempting and executing voter fraud,” Gamble said.

The protesters are demanding that Clear Channel, the company that sold the ad space, take down the billboards. The signs only say they’re paid for by a “private family foundation.”

In a statement, Clear Channel told FOX6 News its policy requires advertisers to identify themselves.

“It is our policy to require any advertiser – including political advertisers — to have a disclaimer which identifies themselves on the creative,” wrote Jim Cullinan, Vice President of Communications, “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.  This is a free speech issue since the ads are factual and are not attack ads.”

Clear Channel says it sold 85 of those voter fraud billboards in the Milwaukee area. In that same deal, whoever bought the signs also took out ad space in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Community groups there have also said they’re mostly placed in minority neighborhoods.

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