Maryland Verdict: GOP Guilty In Voter Suppression, Fraud

Last-minute robo-calls in 2010 tried to discourage African-American vote

A Maryland jury on Tuesday convicted Paul E. Schurick, the 2010 campaign manager for Republican ex-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., of four counts of election law violations stemming from an Election Day decision to make thousands of recorded telephone calls into African-American homes telling likely voters that the Democratic candidate was on his way to winning -- implying there was no need for them to vote. The gambit came after exit polls showed Ehrlich losing.

The election law violations concerned trying to influence votes through fraud, failing to identify the source of the call, and conspiring to commit those crimes. The charges and convictions are rare in the arcane world of election law; usually last-minute dirty tricks are not caught or prosecuted. The Maryland convictions could send a message to Wisconsin, where an AlterNet investigation reported on Monday about similar deceptive messaging from Republican opponents of a statewide recall petition drive to unseat Gov. Scott Walker.

In Wisconsin, the fake messaging was telling petition circulators that they had enough signatures to put the recall question on the ballot and encouraged people to burn or destroy their signed petitions. Perhaps the Maryland verdict -- especially on the conspiracy charge, as that covers incitement of a crime -- will prompt Wisconsin prosecutors to look more carefully for the ringleaders in that state's increasingly dirty recall fight. 

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at December 6, 2011, 7:25am

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