7:30pm September 29, 2011

The Name Behind Black Voter Suppression

democracy voting rights voting restrictions and tricks

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.

About the Author

Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt represents small, women, and minority owned business and technology companies at The Ghatt Law Group LLC, the nations’ first communications law firm owned by women and minorities. She's won landmark cases on behalf of her clients which include national civil rights and public interest organizations. In addition to actively authoring several blogs, being a radio show host and sitting on the boards of three non-profits, she is a tech junkie who has been developing online web content since the very early years of the Internet, 1991 to be precise! Follow her on Twitter at @Jenebaspeaks, on her blog, Jenebaspeaks, which covers the intersection of politics and technology or on her Politics of Raising Children blog at The Washington Times Communities section.


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  1. concern person

    You never mention the additional cost the states have to pay for to hold early voting? With tight budgets from the lack of jobs the states will look to save money any place they can.

  2. mgpthoc

    Why black voters? It is said to suppress "Democrat" voters. Are all Democrats now black? Why is everything seen thru colored glasses with Democrats?

    I get Obama's "the sky is falling, the sky is falling" nearly everyday. Is he going to be indicted for twisting the facts? For example the "panic attacked" scaring senior citizens?

    And when is Eric Holder and Obama going to prosecute the Black Panthers?

    And when is Obama Admin going to give us all the information on the "fast and furious" gun running campaign they implemented?

  3. Raoul McFad, LLL

    Whatever our political persuasions and personal politics are, we all need to be breaking down more barriers to voting in our country, not putting more of them up. The recent trends of making it more difficult to register and vote should be alarming to any US citizen truly concerned about improving our representative democracy. (PS, for what it's worth, I happen to be a registered independent…since 1995.)

  4. Pretty great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  5. [...] 2010 bid.” Entered into evidence was one consultant’s memo that described a “Schurick Doctrine” to “promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African-American [...]

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