Special to the NNPA from The Milwaukee Community Journal –
Community leaders from 11 civil rights, labor, political, and faith-based organizations denounced a “crass effort” by an undisclosed right-wing source to suppress the vote in Milwaukee using billboards that warn against engaging in voter fraud.
These leaders said the motive of the anonymous effort is “voter suppression plot” to discourage qualified voters from exercising their democratic rights.
Speakers from the Milwaukee organizations, including 9 to 5, the NAACP, the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association, SEIU Local One and MICAH, demanded that Clear Channel, the company that owns the billboards, take them down and disclose the organization or individuals who are funding them.
The billboards show three individuals (a Black male, a White and a Latino female) behind jail bars. At the top, the billboard reads: “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” At the bottom it warns violators will receive three years in prison and $10,000 in fines if they engage in the activity. One of the figures in the ad, the White female, says: “We voted illegally.” The groups at the protest called on state and federal authorities to “investigate immediately.”
“The myth that there is widespread voter fraud has been propagated by the far right to discourage voting by underrepresented groups that need to have their voices heard in our democracy,” said Matt Brusky, director of the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Project. The Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Project is part of the Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which organized the protest that took place in front of one of the billboards.
“This is a blatant effort to use scare tactics against minority voters who, more often than not, have to be encouraged to participate in the electoral process and exercise their right to vote,” said Angie Bucio, a board member of Voces de la Frontera Action. “Linking minorities with criminals is a racist strategy to suppress their vote and indicates a potential threat to clean elections in November,” said Bucio.
“Our community desperately needs more involvement in civic life, including important elections,” said Jayme Montgomery-Baker, executive director of the League of Young Voters. “It is appalling that someone would attempt to suppress the vote in our community with these signs and other tactics,” Montgomery-Baker said.