Few Americans know about “The Schurick Doctrine,” the term federal prosecutors coined for a campaign strategy of voter-suppression tactics designed to promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African Americans. It is named for Robert Ehrlich’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign aide Paul Schurick, who with election consultant Julius Henson masterminded efforts to intentionally suppress the black vote in the 2010 election.
During former Gov. Ehrlich’s second bid at the governor’s mansion and an attempt to topple incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley, Schurick & Henson sent anonymous robo-call messages to more than 110,000 Democrats in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, according to prosecutors.
In the message, a woman’s voice told voters not to vote because Martin O’Malley had already won. The message said:
“Hello. I’m calling to let everyone know that Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We’re OK. Relax. Everything’s fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you.”
The call lists used in the campaign originated from Henson’s work for Democrats. Ehrlich, who served as Maryland governor from 2003 to 2007, paid Henson $111,000 to suppress the black vote, though the services were billed as “community outreach.”
In June, a Baltimore grand jury indicted the two on charges of conspiracy to violate state election laws, among other offenses. If convicted, the men could face more than 20 year in prison.
In a Washington Post article earlier this year, Henson, a black consultant who has primarily advised Democrats in mostly African American jurisdictions, took responsibility for the calls in November, saying the message was “counterintuitive” — that the calls were intended to motivate Ehrlich supporters to vote.
The Schurick Doctrine is getting more attention in recent weeks as focus is being turned on various changes in election laws put in place by Republican governors and legislatures. Although, these laws appear on their face to be aimed at ensuring that only properly credentialed true citizens of legal age can vote, Democrats claim the efforts are part of a larger strategy to suppress the black vote.
All the battleground states, those that traditionally have played a large role in determining who wins elections, have recently enacted new voting laws. In Republican-controlled swing states of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, new laws reduce the number of days for early voting. Similarly, Republican-lead legislatures in Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia also decreased the advanced voting time. North Carolina has a pending proposal to do the same, and Maine has eliminated its policy that allows people to register at the polls on Election Day before casting ballots.
During a meeting last week with black media, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schwartz mentioned that African Americans rely on early voting often and that this group would be substantially affected by these types of new voting laws.
No Republican has gone on record acknowledging that a residual impact of these laws would be to suppress black voters.
African Americans traditionally vote Democrat 90 percent of the time and that voting bloc will be a key constituency for the 2012 elections.