Last November, there was a fairly competitive gubernatorial race in Maryland. Late on Election Day, robocalls targeted more than Democratic 100,000 households, telling voters to “relax” and not bother voting because Dems were going to win. It was one of the most blatant examples of GOP voter-suppression in a long while.
A senior aide and a consultant hired by former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) were indicted Thursday in a case stemming from thousands of anonymous robocalls placed on election night last year that suggested voters could stay home even though the polls were still open.
Paul Schurick, 54, Ehrlich’s de facto campaign manager, and Julius Henson, 62, a consultant paid by the campaign, were both charged with three counts of conspiracy to violate election laws, one count of influencing votes through fraud and one count of failing to identify the sponsor of the calls. In addition, Schurick was charged on one count of obstruction of justice.
In a statement, the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, which obtained the indictments from a Baltimore grand jury, said its investigation is continuing. All but one of the charges handed down Thursday carry maximum prison sentences of five years.
There’s a problem when Republican officials believe the best way to win an election is to suppress political participation.
Of course, while the Maryland scheme appears to have been criminal, this year, the more pressing problem is the fact that GOP state lawmakers aren’t resorting to robocall schemes; they’re just rigging the game before Election Day even comes.
As we talked about last week, there is a concerted national effort on the part of many Republican policymakers to make it harder for traditional Democratic voters to participate in the 2012 elections. Under the auspices of rooting out “voter fraud” — a problem that appears to exist largely in the over-active imaginations of GOP activists — Republicans are passing voter-ID measures, approving new laws restricting voter-registration drives, and closing early-voting windows.
If all goes according to plan, going forward, they won’t even need ridiculous schemes like the one in Maryland.