by Craig Masters
In a story that would have gotten a lot of coverage if an incumbent republican presidential candidate was trying to get a second term, the “offensive” billboards around the greater Cleveland, Ohio area reminding everyone of the simple fact that voting illegally is, in fact, a crime, all came down before election day.
The 30 billboards placed around the Cleveland area simply said, ” Voter fraud is a felony! Up to 3-1/2 years & $10,000 fine.” According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter on the Cleveland.com web site, Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, said the billboards will come down immediately. He said the company continues its donation of 10 other billboards that will have messages to counter the offending ones.
“Counter” the offending ones? What in the name of everything America stands for is offensive about the simple statement of a fact about the law? According to City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who objected to the billboards and led the black and hispanic communities to push Clear Channel into removing them, the message was racist and intimidating to blacks and hispanics. But no one could explain why except a group of “civil rights” lawyers who could only claim that the message must have been intended to be racist and intimidate hispanics from voting because the billboards were only erected in predominantly black and hispanic areas. Their claim has nearly no evidence to back it up since there were 30 of the billboards placed throughout the greater Cleveland area.
The solution for Clear Channel Outdoor to regain the good graces of Councilwoman Cleveland and make amends for offending her community was to erect 10 donated billboards with the healing message, “Voting is a right, not a crime.” Five additional billboards carrying that same completely wrong statement are being paid for by the taxpayers whose money the Cleveland City Council sees fit to spend to spread false information. Voting is a privilege of citizens here in the United States. It is not now and never has been a “right.” Many people, even life-long citizens, are not permitted to vote for any number of reasons; not the least of which is not being a citizen.
Understanding this most fundamental of U.S. law has now become too difficult for Councilwoman Cleveland and the “civil rights” lawyers who must be getting their law degrees from some catalog or a cable tv shopping channel. But clearly it would seem in this new age of redefining and transforming America, citizenship and the responsibility to obey the law is just too offensive to Cleveland residents.
As for Councilwoman Cleveland’s victory over the idea of reminding people to obey the law, she reportedly stated, the decision to remove the billboards is “a great example of free speech in action.” The original billboards were free speech, and so was the community’s response. But here again, like misunderstanding the difference between a right and a privilege, Ms Cleveland is wrong. Forcing the billboards to be removed through intimidation was censorship – not free speech.
“I think damage was done, but I don’t think it’s irreparable,” Cleveland said. “I think taking them down and putting up other billboards will be an effective way of countering it.” “That’s a wonderful resolution to this issue,” she said.
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