Liberal politicians and activists in Ohio are complaining that billboards reading “VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY!” are racist attempts by Republicans to suppress minority citizens’ voting rights. In Cleveland, one of the billboards – which a private family foundation is paying to display in several swing states – “has caused a stir,” in the words of the Plain Dealer.
Cleveland City Council member Phyllis Cleveland, a Democrat, told the Plain Dealer, “Some people in my ward have had issues with the criminal justice system and could feel like they’re not able to vote. This could be confusing to them.”
State Senator Nina Turner, also a Democrat, went a step further, comparing the billboard to Jim Crow laws and claiming voter fraud “does not exist.”
“For them to target people in the black community is immoral,” Turner said.
Despite Turner’s persistent claims that voter fraud never occurs, elections integrity group True The Vote recently turned 34 Ohio voter fraud cases over to state and federal authorities.
In an interview with ABC 5, Turner asserted, “This billboard is nothing but a symbol of pure, unadulterated voter suppression to target an African-American community.”
Like Cleveland, Turner has argued that black voters could be dissuaded from voting by misinterpreting the very simple message of the billboards displayed throughout the Cleveland area.
“We know that African-Americans – particularly African-American men – are over-represented in the prison population. The fact that somebody may have transgressed does not mean that they don’t have the right to vote,” Turner told ABC 5.
Turner has a history of finding racism in every issue – particularly issues where Democrat politicians may lose some political advantage. In August, Turner claimed Secretary of State Jon Husted’s attempts to standardize early voting rules across the state represented “flat-out voter suppression in Democratic areas and also areas that are predominantly African-American.”
Ohio union bosses have smeared Husted, a Republican, as the “secretary of suppression” for his modest attempts to ensure election integrity, and appeared happy to join Turner in playing the race card again.
Ohio AFL-CIO Communications Director Mike Gillis told The Washington Post the billboards are “really designed to scare people.”
“Every election year we see offensive, underhanded tactics by groups who dont want everyone to have access to the voting booth,” the AFL-CIO said in a statement. In an attempt to pressure Clear Channel, the company that owns the ad space, into taking down the privately-funded billboards, the union added, “We urge Clear Channel to remove these billboards and replace them with information that will help voters exercise their fundamental right to vote in this years critical election.”
Contrary to complaints of “voter suppression” from liberal politicians and activists seeking to motivate their base, Husted’s office announced last week that over 1.1 million Ohioans requested absentee ballots for the November election and more than 59,000 voters have already taken advantage of early in-person voting hours.
In July, Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee sued Husted to allow in-person absentee voting the weekend before the election, claiming Husted’s attempt to standardize office hours across the state amounted to military favoritism. Clinton-appointed Judge Peter Economus ruled in favor of the Obama campaign. Husted appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied a stay of the lower court’s decision.
When the case was initially filed, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern repeated the Jim Crow theme, claiming Husted’s policies were “threatening to take us back to the relics of a different era.”
At an August rally, union campaign arm We Are Ohio joined Democrat demands for weekend voting in addition to Husted’s schedule calling for weeks of in-person absentee voting and absentee ballot applications sent to every registered voter.
In September, a group of fringe-left organizations led by former Obama “Green Jobs” Czar Van Jones’s Color of Change also demanded expanded early voting and decried Republicans as racists.
[Editor’s note, 10/22/2012: Removed the number 10 from the seventh paragraph, as different reports have listed varying numbers of billboards in the Cleveland area.]