Controversial Billboards Urge Spanish-Speakers To Show ID

Billboards in Pennsylvania urge Spanish-speakers to show ID

ByABC News
October 31, 2012, 3:57 PM

Oct. 31, 2012— -- A set of controversial billboards in Wisconsin and Ohio warning about the consequences of voter fraud came down after community groups voiced their opposition. But a set of billboards in Pennsylvania urging Spanish-speaking voters to show ID to vote continue to raise eyebrows.

The billboards read, "Esta Jornada Electoral, Si La Tienes, Muéstrala," which translates to "This election, if you have it, show it."

They feature a woman holding a photo ID card.

After a series of court battles surrounding Pennsylvania's hotly debated voter ID law, it was decided that voters will not need to show photo ID to cast ballots this election.

The law requiring voters to show photo ID may take effect next year, but voters in Pennsylvania will not need to present a photo to vote on November 6.

The billboards, put up by the state and paid for with federal funding from the Help America Vote Act, have drawn criticism from voter advocacy groups for being confusing.

While the billboards don't explicitly say that ID is required, they give no indication that is not required either, critics say.

The Advancement Project, a voter advocacy organization that opposes Pennsylvania's voter ID law, says that the ads are misleading.

The organization and a number of other groups filed a petition earlier this month alleging that the state has continued to distribute false and ambiguous information regarding ID requirements.

"Really, there's no reason for it," said Katherine Culliton-González, a senior attorney and director of voter protection for the organization. "It is within the letter of the law, but it's not within the spirit of the victory."

She thinks it will lead to confusion among voters, particularly among Latinos. Those who are eligible to vote but lack ID may be reluctant to go to the polls due to the billboards. The signs, in both English and Spanish, appear in many buses and bus stations and Culliton-González noted that Latino voters are more likely to take public transpiration than whites.

Nick Winkler, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, says the signs are perfectly clear.

"I do think it's clear that ID is not required," he said, adding that ID will be required in the future and the signs are part of a continuing education campaign to inform voters of impending rules.

"Every voter will be asked to show ID," he said, "although it's not required."

He called the billboards an "opportunity to meet our interpretation of the judge's ruling."

Winkler added that the billboards, along with television ads and other forms of outreach, direct people to the state's voter information website and a phone number, where more information is available.

He acknowledges that the billboards do not say explicitly that ID is not required.

"It's hard to get all the info out in a 30 second spot or billboard," he said.

He declined to comment on the Advancement Project's petition, saying he doesn't discuss ongoing legal matters.

Before the ruling that ID would not be required, original billboards showed a woman holding a photo ID and the phrase, "Si Quieres Votar, Muéstrala" in Spanish.

The English translation is, "If You Want to Vote, Show It."

Winkler said the state called for the signs to be taken down following the Oct. 2 court ruling that ID would not be required.

"To the best of our knowledge," Winkler said, "they have all been pulled down."

But a Bloomberg Businessweek article shows a photo of the original billboard still on display in Northeast Philadelphia more than a week after the Oct. 2 ruling.