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More than 140 intimidating voter fraud billboards that were primarily placed in low-income areas in Ohio and Wisconsin will be taken down starting Monday. The sponsor of the billboards chose to remove them as opposed to exposing their identity, the billboard owner said. The aggressive billboards show a large judge’s gavel and read “Voter Fraud Is A Felony! Up To 3 1/2 YRS & $10,000 Fine.” The billboards went up in early October, weeks before the election.
The billboards were immediately criticized by voter rights groups as an attempt to intimidate minority voters. The identity of the sponsor was withheld by Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. The company said revealing the identity of the sponsor was a violation of its policy against anonymous political ads. After discussions with the sponsor, or “private family foundation” as Clear Channel references them, they “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. On Monday, crews 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!”