UPDATE: We won! After 57,000 members of the SumOfUs.org community joined tens of thousands of others in calling for Clear Channel to pull down ads that are likely to have the effect of intimidating poor Black and Latino voters, the ads have now come down in Cleveland and Columbus, to be replaced with messages encouraging voting.

This kind of work matters. Voter intimidation used to be blatant, usually involving a white Southerner dressed up in sheets burning crosses, or a man with a bat outside a polling place. Today, voter intimidation is much more subtle, yet still effective in keeping millions of eligible voters — most of them poor people of color — away from the polls, by spreading confusion and fear about the risk of going to jail simply for voting.


Apparently, media giant Clear Channel thinks it’s a-okay to use its billboards to intimidate voters in an effort to keep people of color from voting.

Last week, an anonymous group started plastering Black and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin with billboards implying that people can be prosecuted for trying to vote. Despite widespread protests, Clear Channel has refused to take the billboards down, claiming that they aren’t responsible for the content.

Our allies at Color of Change think that ramping up pressure on Clear Channel now, while the media spotlight is shining, could be what it takes to get these billboards pulled before they cause even more harm.

Tell Clear Channel to stop profiting from voter intimidation — take the billboards down NOW!

Of course, Clear Channel has refused to put up political billboards before — in fact, just a few months ago, they refused to let us put up a billboard calling out the corporate funders of climate change denialists The Heartland Institute, with the reasoning “you can’t criticize a corporation.”

Voter intimidation used to be blatant, usually involving a white Southerner dressed up in sheets burning crosses, or a man with a bat outside a polling place. Today, voter intimidation and suppression is much more subtle, yet still effective in keeping millions of eligible voters — most of them poor people of color — away from the polls by spreading confusion  and fear about the risk of going to jail simply for voting.

State governments have tried to purge voter rolls, made registering to vote more difficult, and curbed early and absentee voting — often at the behest of corporate-friendly lobbying groups like ALEC. Right-wing politicians say that these measures are meant to curb voter fraud, but so far, no one has found a single instance of voter fraud that these policies would have stopped. The real point of these laws is to make voting harder for poor people, students, and people of color.

Now Clear Channel — which, surprise, surprise, is owned by Bain Capital — is getting in on the action and making a quick buck off of voter intimidation. Of course, the bar has to be high for us to advocate removing a billboard, but voter intimidation rises to that level.

It’s ridiculous that Clear Channel would stop SumOfUs.org members from denouncing corporate-sponsored climate change denial and then let some anonymous organization intimidate Black and Latino voters. Let’s stand together and hold them accountable.

Tell Clear Channel to take down these intimidating billboards.

 

 

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Further reading:

Ohio voter fraud billboard accused of intimidating black voters,” The Grio, 10-05-12.
Does Romney’s Bain Capital Support Voter Suppression,” Daily Kos, 10-10-12.
The Myth of Voter Fraud,” Washington Post, 03-29-07.