Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Clear Channel Outdoor
2325 E. Camelback Road,
Suite 400 Phoenix, AZ 85016
Dear Mr. Cullinan:
We write to follow up on the October 9 letter sent by the Lawyers' Committee to Clear Channel Ohio, a copy of which we are attaching for your information. The October 9 letter identified the harmful effects resulting from a number of Clear Channel billboards -- reading that "VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY" and listing criminal penalties -- which appear to have targeted African-American neighborhoods in the Cleveland area.
The October 9 letter asked that Clear Channel counteract the harmful effect of these billboards by replacing them with billboards advertising Election Protection's 866-OUR-VOTE voter assistance hotline. We were heartened to read in the Cleveland Plain Dealer ("Washington group asks for Clear Channel to remove voter fraud billboards," October 10, 2012) that Clear Channel Outdoor intends to start a dialogue with political leaders and community activists about the billboards, and accordingly we request a meeting with Clear Channel to discuss this matter further. We also appreciate Clear Channel's acknowledgment of the "sensitivity of the signage," Clear Channel's conclusion that the anonymity of the advertiser was a mistake, and Clear Channel's commitment to "not post signs without naming the official sponsor in the future." We welcome these positive steps, but they still fall short of remedying the problems caused by the billboards in question, particularly since Clear Channel has not agreed to remove them.
Furthermore, we have learned since October 9 that similar billboards are now being displayed in minority neighborhoods in other cities in Ohio and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Of the eighteen billboards in and around Milwaukee of which we are aware, eleven are in areas that have 55 percent or more minority residents, and only one is in an area with less than 13 percent minority residents. Overall, Wisconsin has a 16.7% percent minority population. This is the same type of apparent racial targeting as we previously identified in Cleveland. This situation calls for immediate corrective actions; not for the problem to be allowed to spread.
These billboards do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they appear to represent a continuation of past targeted efforts to discourage lawful voting by minority citizens. For example, in Ohio in 2004 there was an attempt to challenge 35,000 newly registered voters in urban areas, which was only prevented by a court order. In 2008, fliers were distributed in Franklin County, Ohio, falsely stating that voters from one party would vote on the actual Election Day and voters from the other party would vote the day after. Similarly, in Milwaukee, fliers were distributed in African-American neighborhoods incorrectly telling voters they could not vote if they had not paid their parking tickets and if they did attempt to vote, they could be arrested.
The Election Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan voter protection coalition, is working nationwide to ensure that voters receive the information and assistance they need in order to cast ballots that will count. We believe that a meeting between Clear Channel Outdoor, Election Protection and members of the affected communities will provide an opportunity for you to learn more about the harmful impact of these billboards and also to hear our ideas about how Clear Channel can counter the harmful effects of these billboards. We continue to believe that the billboards should be replaced with information that will help individuals exercise their right to vote rather than information that stigmatizes voting. We seek collaboration so that together we can help ensure that no eligible American voter is dissuaded from exercising his or her fundamental right as a result of these billboards.
This is a time-sensitive request. Every day that the billboards remain up in communities, eligible voters are discouraged from exercising their fundamental right to vote. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience to begin this important dialogue. Please contact Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at email@example.com or 202.662.8315.
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
African American Ministers In Action
All Education Matters, Inc.
American Federation of Teachers
Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)
Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California
Brennan Center for Justice
Color of Change
Fair Elections Legal Network
Hip Hop Caucus
League of United Latin American Citizens
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People National Voter Fund
National Bar Association
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
National Black Law Students Association
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
National Council of Jewish Women
National Education Association
People For the American Way
Rock the Vote
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Service Employees International Union
United Steelworkers International Union
USAction Education Fund
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund