When a paid campaign consultant presents you with a plan designed to illegally suppress the African American vote, what is the proper response? When this happened last year to Republicans in Maryland, rather than show the consultant the door, they chose instead to continue to solicit his ideas. This came out yesterday during the trial of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s campaign manager Paul Schurick and consultant Julius Henson for voter suppression on Election Day last year.
While the polls were still open, Maryland Democrats received telephone calls late in the day telling them that Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley had won reelection, so they could “relax” (i.e., not vote). The calls were generated and approved by operatives working for Ehrlich’s campaign. His campaign manager and former high-ranking aide Paul Schurick and campaign consultant Julius Henson are on trial for seeking to suppress the African American vote. The Washington Post reports Schurick’s alternative explanation for the robocalls:
The calls were a kind of reverse psychology, Schurick’s attorney said, intended to motivate Democrats inclined to cross party lines and vote for Ehrlich to head to the polls in the election’s waning hours.
[Schurick’s attorney] said other members of Ehrlich’s campaign team will attest that Schurick previously rejected a plan by Henson to suppress black voter turnout. And on Election Day, Pettit said, Schurick’s approval of the robo-calls came in response to Henson’s assertion that the calls would motivate a few final supporters to turn out for Ehrlich.
Even if we take Schurick at his word, his statement is damning. A paid consultant presented the Republican campaign with a plan to suppress the African American vote, which is anti-democratic to say the least. But rather than terminating their relationship with him, they simply rejected that particular idea and continued to work with him on other campaign strategies.
This is hardly an isolated incident. As the GOP nationwide works to make it harder for Americans to vote, their professions of fealty to free and fair elections are hard to take seriously.