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VOTING RIGHTS GROUPS COMMEND NORTON OUTDOOR FOR PROTECTING VOTING RIGHTS, REMOVING INTIMIDATING VOTER FRAUD BILLBOARDS


COLUMBUS, OH - October 24, 2012 -

A coalition of voting rights groups, including Common Cause, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and the National Education Association (NEA), today commended Norton Outdoor for agreeing to take down a number of anonymously-funded billboards placed in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Cincinnati. The ads warned citizens that voter fraud was a felony, and were deemed by the groups as a voter suppression tactic. Advocates have responded locally with protests in front of the signs. A local affiliate of the NEA, the Ohio Education Association, has responded by paying for billboards which affirm that voters have a right to vote and gives out the number of a voter protection hotline.

“We commend Norton Outdoor for deciding to do the right thing and take down the billboards,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Threats and intimidation have no place in our political process. Transparency and fair play are among the hallmarks of what we stand for as Americans.”

“It’s collective action that makes a difference—just like the coalitions coming together to fight these voter suppression billboards,” said educator and Ohio Education Association President Patricia Frost-Brooks.

We commend Norton Outdoor’s decision to remove these billboards,” said Catherine Turcer of Ohio Common Cause. “Interfering with voting is un-American. The fact that the group paying for these messages chose to remain in the shadows shows that they know their message is wrong.”

"This is an inspiring victory for the communities that fought back against these billboards," said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Free speech is a right of all Americans, and citizens used their voice to organize and oppose this targeted suppression tactic. Norton Outdoor did the right thing by responding to the outcry."

Common Cause, the National Education Association and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights are part of the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition, which last week started a campaign to counter the anonymously-financed billboards with their own pro-voting messages. One billboard urges residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say — VOTE.” A second set of billboards reminds voters that “When We Vote, We Are All Equal.” The billboards also include the coalition’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which provides voter information and answers to questions on voter registration and ID requirements and election procedures. The coalition will also have field programs on Election Day at polling places across the country.

Election Protection supports voters through the national Election Protection Hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, a voter information hotline staffed by trained volunteers. This year, Election Protection also launched the Election Protection Smartphone App, which any voter can use to check their registration status, look up their polling place, or access voter education materials. Voters can download the Election Protection Smartphone App by texting "OurVote" to 90975. Voters can also visit www.866OurVote.org, which contains state-specific election and voting information.

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Contact: Christy Setzer, Common Cause  (617) 512-7572