Bob Ehrlich’s campaign paid for an automated phonecall targeting Democratic minorities that told voters to stay at home and not bother voting because they had already won. The call was dishonest and didn’t work but it was a clear attempt to suppress the vote.
A grand jury in handed down indictments against two Ehrlich operatives and Paul Schurick – Ehrlich’s campaign manager – was found guilty of election fraud.
Even though his senior staff actually formulated a strategy to suppress the turnout of African American voters, Bob Ehrlich vehemently denied knowledge of the robocalls and saw himself free of blame or complicity.
Last week we learned otherwise.
A campaign finance report showed that Bob Ehrlich’s campaign spent more than $100,000 to futilely defend his former campaign manager and longtime aide. By doing so, Ehrlich has taken responsibility for the reprehensible robocalls and the fundamentally un-American voter suppression strategy that originated in his campaign backrooms.
Ehrlich may not be new to the voter suppression business, but what’s truly troubling is how GOP Governors and legislators around the country have followed his lead by enacting laws restricting voter registration and early voting, and placing undue obstacles at polling places. This coordinated approach may supposedly be targeting non-existent voter fraud, but in reality the intention to make it harder for seniors, minorities, young voters and the poor to participate in elections.
Taking responsibility for his campaign’s election day wrong-doing may be part of Bob Ehrlich’s political rehabilitation. Or maybe Ehrlich simply wants drive up sales of his book (currently languishing at #249,908 on Amazon.com) by appealing to tea-party Republicans who fully embrace voter suppression as a means of winning elections.
Either way, we hope Bob Ehrlich is truly finished with Maryland politics.
Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis issued the following statement today after a jury found Paul Schurick guilty of conspiring to violate Maryland election laws, attempting to influence a voter’s decision through the use of fraud, and failing to provide an authority line on campaign material. The verdict is a result of deceptive automated phone calls made on November 2, 2010 intended to suppress minority and Democratic voter turnout.
Voter suppression has a long and disgraceful history in our country, and the dirty tricks we’ve seen in Maryland aren’t new. The right to vote is precious and a critical part of our democracy. Paul Schurick and the Ehrlich campaign sought to take away that right for some of our fellow citizens. Having been a target of this misleading automated-call, today’s verdict is a step towards stopping voter suppression in Maryland.
The only way we can prevent these perverse practices from undermining our democratic process is by bringing these despicable tactics into the light of day and ensuring that every voter is respected, every vote is counted and every person has the confidence that their vote will matter.