Voter Fraud Billboards Offend in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND -- Intimidating and discriminatory, that's how some see billboards on voter fraud found in certain Cleveland neighborhoods. 

There is an effort to get them taken down. 

The billboards simply state that voter fraud is a felony, but the controversy is to whom the message is directed.

State Senator Nina Turner said the billboards have been put up in predominately low-income Cleveland neighborhoods, and she finds them to be a symbol of voter suppression. 

"In the State of Ohio, ex-offenders have the right to vote.  But what they are doing is trying to confuse voters," Turner said. 

"I am offended because they're placing them in communities that are already disenfranchised," said Cleveland resident Griot Y-von.

Community activists and two Cleveland councilwomen joined State Senator Turner on Thursday calling for the billboards to be removed. 

Cleveland Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell said it replaced a billboard encouraging young people to get a college education. 

"So why come right now in front of a minority community basically and try to scare people?" Councilwoman Mitchell added. 

Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland said Clevelanders have to present a different message. 

"Voting is a right, not a crime, and we all got to turn out," she explained.

The billboards are said to be paid for by "a private family foundation." 

In a written statement, Jim Cullinan, VP of Communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, said, "The advertiser put in the contract to remain anonymous." 

He went on to say that the billboards "will not be removed because they are not attack ads and factually correct." 

Cleveland resident Lord Paris France agreed. 

"It mostly say anybody, any race that try to commit fraud.  It don't think it's pointing towards blacks, whites or kind of race," he said. 

The city leaders stressed that registered voters should exercise their right to vote regardless of the message on the billboard.

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