http://news.yahoo.com/billboards-ohio-warn-voter-fraud-165700798.html .. Hundreds of voter fraud billboards in and around three large swing-state cities have indirect ties to Bain Capital, the investment company founded by Mitt Romney. NPR reports 85 billboards near Milwaukee and 60 among Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, announce "Voter Fraud is a Felony!" Some voting rights advocates and Democrats show concern these billboards may discourage people to vote. How are these billboards tied to Bain Capital? The NPR story notes Romney hasn't worked for Bain Capital for years. Every billboard space is owned by Clear Channel Outdoor, which is largely owned by Bain Capital. The person and/or group that paid for the advertising space with less than three weeks until the election remains anonymous. Why are these signs a concern to voter advocacy groups? Although the signs are factually accurate, concerned groups worry the location of the ads may affect minority voters. Many of the billboards can be found near Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods. Common Cause, a citizen advocacy group, plans to buy $30,000 in counter signs encouraging residents in these cities to vote. ABC News and Univision report 20 billboards will appear in neighborhoods in Cleveland where the voter fraud signs already exist. What can be done about the voter fraud billboards? Reuters reveals the billboards will remain visible through election day on Nov. 6. Online petitions signed by tens of thousands of people encourage Clear Channel to take down the signs. However, local Democrats fear the signs will force some people to think twice about voting. City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, whose district in Cleveland has most of the city's anti-fraud billboards, called the ads "insidious" and will "intimidate" voters, according to Reuters article. How often does fraud pose a serious threat to American voting rights? The Chronicle-Telegram of northern Ohio cites statistics from two government sources that detail the ratio between number of ballots cast and instances of voter fraud convictions regarding federal elections. The report states 649 million ballots were cast in general elections from 2000 to 2010 using Census Bureau numbers. Seventy people were convicted of federal voting crimes from 2002 to 2005. Five of those were for voter registration issues. The report cited Justice Department figures regarding the convictions. What has Clear Channel said about the controversy? The media conglomerate was criticized for funding similar anonymous billboards in Milwaukee in 2010 during mid-term elections, according to the NPR piece. A spokesperson for Clear Channel told the national radio outlet anonymous advertisers are "against company policy" and that a "mistake was made" when the contract was signed for these billboards. William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics. ..