Civil rights and civic groups said the billboards that appeared in Black neighborhoods were aimed at curbing voter participation.
The billboards that created so much controversy in the presidential election in Ohio are being removed following a widespread public outcry from community groups that insist that they were designed to intimidate voters.
Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that operates the billboards, said they had received a large number of complaints from civil rights and civic groups about the signs, which appeared in predominantly Black areas in Cleveland.
The billboards carried messages such as “Voter fraud is a felony” and that such an offense is punishable by three years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The company did not disclose the identity of the purchaser of the billboard space.
Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, said his company deliberated on the controversy and offered the sponsors a choice between having their identity revealed or removing the signs.
The company acknowledged that the billboards “violate our policy of not accepting anonymous political ads,” Cullinan said, in a statement. “We asked the client how they would prefer to work with us to bring the boards into conformance with our policy. The client thought the best solution was to take the boards down, so we are in the process of removing them."
Ohio is a pivotal state in the Democrats' hope of retaining the presidency for Barack Obama. The Black vote is critical in the state since African-American Ohioans are overwhelmingly Democratic.
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(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File/AP Photo)