one of several images used in the South Dallas County billboard campaign
In excess of 140 billboards warning of the criminal consequence of voter fraud placed in predominately low income and minority neighborhoods in three major Ohio cities i.e., Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are being taken down. Why?
Ostensibly, according to a spokesperson for the owner of most of the billboards involved, the signs violated a policy of not accepting anonymous political advertisements. A second company involved in renting billboard space for the voter fraud ads in the Cincinnati area, stated that the ads were being taken down because the company had become aware that the ads could be seen reasonably as an attempt to intimidate or suppress voters.
In the Cleveland and Columbus area, the company offered the party who rented the voter fraud ads billboard space an opportunity to either identify themselves or to withdraw the ads. The anonymous party chose to remove the voter fraud ads rather than to acknowledge them.
Several questions are raised by this incident, not the least of which concerns the veracity of the ads. Are the ads correct factually?
Second, if a policy exists within the company that displayed most of the voter fraud ads against anonymous political ads, how did the anonymous ads appear on the company's billboards in the first place?
Third, a story like this one is an investigative reporter's dream, and yet the hunt for the anonymous advertiser seems non-existent. Not only is the search for the anonymous advertiser an investigative reporter's dream assignment, it also falls squarely within the realm of the theoretical geographer.
The application of theoretical geography to identifing the anonymous advertiser is essentially the same as the use of that science in tracking any other fugitive, exempli gratia, you rule out the places a fugitive cannot or will not go until you have a only a few places left to look. In this case you rule out the groups that could not or would not place such an ad anonymously until you have only a few groups left that could or would. And, eventually you identify the anonymous advertiser.
Perhaps, overtime these questions will be answered, but they are not the most important ones to ask at this time.
This might be an ideal time for this author to write about two other incidents that occurred over the course of this presidential campaign that may shed some light upon the voter fraud ads controversy. The first, involves a rather unsettling diatribe by a candidate for the state legislature that took place in the Republican Party booth at the Clermont County Fair this past summer.
The second, a brush with a Team Romney associate from the Dublin group while this author was interviewing Tagg Romney during his visit to Washington Court House. However, these articles can wait until the 7th of November and beyond, as their importance transcends this particular election.
The real story unearthed by the 'billboard' controversy lies elsewhere, and goes to the heart of the campaign strategy to elect Mitt Romney.
The question is this, does the Romney campaign in Ohio by its actions reveal a strategy that does not include a positive campaign to garner the votes of the low income and minorities, but to imtimidate those of low income and minorities to suppress their vote?
To answer that question one need only set up a null hypothesis and try to prove it. And, when you cannot prove it, that means your original hypothesis must be true.
The null hypothesis in this case is that no group associated with the Republican Party placed the voter fraud ads anonymously with the intent to intimidate or to supress any group of legitimate voters.
And, remembering that the low-margin-of victory strategy that is Romney's best chance of winning this election, is dependent highly on a low-margin-of error in the conduct of his campaign, the aformentioned question is best answered before the votes are counted on the 6th of November.
Mitt Romney must disavow knowledge of this affair by anyone associated with his campaign for the presidency. That task could be made easier if the candidate or some other person within his campaign could affirm association or even encouragement of the South Dallas County billboard campaign.
On the face of it, this albeit brief, voter intimidation event is a reult of a meticulously timed but poorly conceived plan to influence the upcoming election by discouraging the oppositions' voters from casting their ballots.
Any attempt to employ a negative image in a political campaign is always fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is that it defies the conventional wisdom that the public may not derive the meaning from it that it was intended to convey.
The alternatives considered by the Ohio billboard campaign group were rather apparent, id est, either we spend to gain a percentage of the low income and minority vote, or we invest in trying to curtail their votes?
Contrast that decision making process which resulted in the negative billboard campaigns in Ohio and Wisconsin, with a billboard campaign launched recently in the Dallas County, Texas neighborhoods of South Dallas, and Oak Cliff.
a simple statement of fact, or an attempt to suppress the vote?
A spokesperson for the group responsible for the South Dallas County billboard campaign explained that the ads were designed not only to acknowledge the conservative voting base that exists in these communities, but to fan the flames of community conversation as well. The ads also have paved the way for the endorsement of Republican candidates in general as well as those running in and around the South Dallas County area.