Oct. 22, 2012— -- Controversial billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin will be taken down following complaints from community organizations that they were intended to suppress votes.
The anonymous group behind the billboards chose to remove them rather than reveal its identity.
The billboards included the phrase, "Voter Fraud is a Felony," and were placed in low-income minority neighborhoods in both states. Advocacy groups said the signs intimidated minority voters.
Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns the billboards and sold the ad space to an anonymous group, said his company "reviewed the situation" and gave the sponsor of the signs a choice.
"…[I]n light of the fact that these billboards violate our policy of not accepting anonymous political ads, we asked the client how they would prefer to work with us to bring the boards into conformance with our policy," Cullinan emailed. "The client thought the best solution was to take the boards down, so we are in the process of removing them."
The company said last week that it usually requires advertisers to identify themselves, but policy had "unfortunately" not been followed in the case of the voter-fraud billboards.
The decision to remove the billboards came after a storm of bad press from both local and national media.
According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, similar billboards went up in 2010 that were also paid for by an unidentified "private family foundation."
To counteract the voter fraud billboards, Clear Channel Outdoor donated space for 10 billboards around the Cleveland area that read "Voting Is a Right. Not a Crime!"
"We donated space to the campaign being led by Cleveland City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland," Cullinan emailed.
Councilwoman Cleveland has been a vocal critic of the billboards, and advocated that the voter fraud billboards be replaced with a more positive message.