Billboard controversy in MilwaukeeCivil rights groups in Milwaukee are demanding that an anonymous foundation take down billboards that warn voters not to vote illegally.
By: By Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Civil rights groups in Milwaukee are demanding that an anonymous foundation take down billboards that warn voters not to vote illegally. But the company that owns the billboards won't identify who paid for them.
A coalition of civil rights groups in Milwaukee is urging people to sign an online petition calling on Clear Channel Outdoor to remove more than a dozen billboards in African American, Latino, and student neighborhoods in the city. The billboards are similar to ones that appeared in the same neighborhoods during elections in both 2008 and 2010. The billboards warn in large block letters that voter fraud is a felony punishable by 3 years in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. Mike Wilder of the African American Round Table calls the signs a blatant attempt to suppress the minority vote.
"A lot of people think you still have to have an ID to vote in the state of Wisconsin, that's not true. A lot of people think they are ineligible to vote because they are a felon, but they are currently off-paper, in which state law says if you are a felon off-paper, you can vote. This is just adding to the confusion," he said. "It's intimidation, it's misleading, and it's very deceptive, and we want 'em out of our community."
Wilder says Clear Channel has refused to identify the organization that rented the billboards, and has denied that they target only minority voters. County and state officials in Milwaukee have made prosecuting voter fraud a top priority over the past two years. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office says in regard to the billboards that the Department of Justice supports both efforts to deter crime using accurate messages and the right of free speech. Meanwhile Common Cause, the national campaign watchdog group has called on the National Broadcasters Association to take a stand against the voter fraud billboards.