Commentary: Beware the Voter Suppression Billboard in Ohio

Billboard is an attempt to scare residents away from voting.

Posted: 10/05/2012 02:44 PM EDT

Codified voter suppression coming from Republican groups in the form of voter ID laws has thankfully been getting struck down in courts around the country. Just this week, for instance, a Pennsylvania judge “ordered elections officials not to enact a voter identification requirement that had been harshly criticized by civil rights groups,” reported’s own Jonathan P. Hicks. But while there may be a strong backlash against the voter ID requirements, that certainly doesn’t mean ugly voter suppression tactics aren’t alive and well in the United States.

In Cleveland, Ohio, an important swing state, there now sits across from the Arbor Park Village housing project a billboard warning, “VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY! Up to 3 ½ years and a $10,000 fine.” It’s unlikely that anyone in that area has plans to engage in high-stakes voter fraud schemes, but it’s likely that the billboard isn’t there to actually deter someone out of their fraud plans. Rather, to many, the billboard looks like an attempt to scare residents in that area, many of whom are African-American and some of whom probably have criminal records, out of voting.

Ohio blog PlunderBund has been in touch with an aptly named Cleveland city councilwoman who says the sign’s intent is transparent:

According to Cleveland City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland … this sign is directly across from Arbor Park Village, a subsidized housing development of more than 600 units. It is also within a few blocks of three public housing estates and right down the street from Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus.

“This is blatant voter intimidation,” says Councilwoman Cleveland. “A direct attack in the heart of African American community meant to scare people and keep them from exercising their right to vote.”

The sign says only that it’s been paid for “by a private family foundation,” meaning people who are outraged by the billboard don’t have much of a direct target for their ire. But when someone’s unwilling to put their real name on their work, that generally tells you all you need to know about whether their motives are decent. It would appear that some Ohio conservatives will go so low that they can’t even admit it openly.

These views do not necessarily represent those of BET Networks.


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