Oct. 17, 2012 -- Ohio has recently taken center stage as one of the few remaining swing states. That status brings with it a bitter fight for votes, and in some cases, the potential for voter intimidation.
A series of billboards have gone up in poor, minority neighborhoods in the Cleveland area telling people that voter fraud is a felony. The sponsor of the billboards is unidentified.
"Voter Fraud is a Felony! Up to 3 1/2 YRS and a $10,000 Fine," read the signs.
While voter fraud is indeed a felony, instances of in-person fraud are very rare, and the placement and timing of the billboards has some groups crying foul.
Common Cause, a left-leaning citizen advocacy group, says the billboards are intended to intimidate potential voters and is set to launch a counter billboard campaign.
The group and a coalition of partners plan to buy about $30,000 worth of billboard space to spread the word that eligible voters can and should cast ballots. The billboards, about 20 in total, will appear in neighborhoods that also have the signs warning against voter fraud.
Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns the voter fraud billboards, said they typically require advertisers to disclose their identity on the billboard, but that the policy was "unfortunately" not followed in this case.
"Clear Channel Outdoor doesn't comment on our advertisers campaigns so we have no comment on these ads. The advertiser put into the contract to remain anonymous," reads the statement. "It is our policy to require advertisers, including political advertisers, to have disclaimers which identify them. Unfortunately, policy was not followed in this case. We will do all we can to ensure it does not happen again."
Clear Channel told Common Cause that a private family foundation bought the billboards, but refused to disclose the buyer.
A number of groups are also warning against voter fraud.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Tea Party groups have tried to remove more than 2,000 names from Ohio's voter rosters.
The paper reports that the groups have joined to form the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, an offshoot of True the Vote, an organization backing a nationwide effort to challenge voter rosters and install workers at polling places.
Many Democrats have accused the organization of trying to intimidate young people and minorities, who tend to vote Democratic. The group has challenged the voter eligibility of students who failed to specify a dorm room on their voter registration forms at multiple Ohio colleges.
Relatedly, the Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to hear a case that would have limited early, in-person voting during the weekend before the election, a decision cheered by Democrats who benefitted from early voting in 2008.