Maryland: Fourth Circuit dismisses political consultant’s challenge of illegal Election Day robocall | Baltimore Sun

A federal court on Monday rejected political consultant Julius Henson’s appeal of a $1 million civil judgment against him for an illegal Election Day robocall. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that Henson, his company, Universal Elections Inc., and an employee violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with a November 2010 automated campaign message to more than 112,000 Democratic voters in Maryland. In the case brought by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the state argued that the call was designed to suppress black votes. The message failed to include information on the call’s sponsor. Henson was employed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Martin O’Malley for re-election.

Maryland: Martin O’Malley to propose expanding early voting in Maryland | The Washington Post

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans on Friday to propose expanding early voting days in Maryland and, for the first time, allowing residents to register on the same day that they cast ballots — moves certain to rankle Republicans. The legislation seeks to build upon an early voting plan in place in Maryland since 2010 that was vigorously fought for years by the state’s minority party, including O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Maryland: Civil penalty adds to fallout from Maryland robo-call case | The Washington Post

If criminal convictions were not enough, add $1 million in civil penalties to the list of reasons Maryland politicos may think twice about ordering another election-night robo-call that could be viewed as trying to suppress voter turnout. A federal judge on Tuesday sided with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and ordered that a consultant to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) should pay for each of 112,000 automated phone calls that failed to identify Ehrlich’s campaign as the one that paid for the messages. The calls were placed to homes of tens of thousands of African American Democrats in Prince George’s County and Baltimore on Election Day 2010. They told listeners to “relax” and to not worry about going to the polls, because the incumbent, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), and President Obama had already been “successful” in the day’s voting.

Maryland: Schurick Sentenced in Robocalling; Maryland Vote Suppression History Reviewed | Yahoo! News

Paul Schurick, campaign manager for former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., received a one-year suspended sentence, 30 days of home detention, and 500 community service hours Thursday after being convicted in connection with a robocall campaign aimed at keeping black voters away from the polls in the 2010 election. The call impliedly made by Democrats told voters now-Gov. Martin O’Malley was assured of victory so they needn’t get out to vote. Schurick could have been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, the Baltimore Sun said, for violating a 2006 law prohibiting the use of deception to influence voter decisions.

Maryland: Voter suppression: No free speech protection for fraud |

“Come out to vote on November 6.” “Before you come to vote make sure you pay your parking tickets, motor vehicle tickets, overdue rent, and most important any warrants.”

That’s the text of a flier distributed in African-American and Hispanic communities the weekend before Election Day in 2002 when Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. ran for governor against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. November 6 would be too late to vote; it was a Wednesday. Failure to pay the rent or parking or motor vehicle tickets is not a barrier to voting; neither is an outstanding warrant.

The Maryland General Assembly first outlawed voter suppression efforts in 1896, making it illegal to use “force, threat, menace, intimidation, bribery, or reward, or offer…[to] otherwise unlawfully, either directly or indirectly, influence or attempt to influence any voter in giving his vote.”

National: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks | The Washington Post

Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.

Cardin said he would file a bill Wednesday to make it a federal offense to produce or use fraudulent election material to try to mislead or discourage voting within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow prosecutors nationwide to guard against the kind of robocalls that a Maryland jury this month decided were intended to suppress black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s (R) campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of election law violations stemming from ordering the calls, which told voters in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The automated call said Democratic candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama had already been successful. Schurick is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16, and faces potential jail time.

National: Senator Cardin to introduce voter fraud bill |

Sen. Ben Cardin said he will unveil legislation Wednesday to impose criminal and civil penalties for those who distribute false voting information before an election. The effort, which Cardin is making along with New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, comes days after Paul Schurick, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign manager, was found guilty of election fraud for attempting to suppress turnout with a last-minute robo-call.

The call, directed at black neighborhoods in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, told voters to “relax,” and stated before polls had closed that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reelection was assured. Schurick’s attorney, arguing that the call was protected under the First Amendment, has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Maryland: Former Md. Gov. Ehrlich could testify in black voter-suppression case | The Washington Post

Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and first lady Kendal Ehrlich have been added to the state’s witness list in a trial expected to begin today in Baltimore. The case is the first of two to settle whether members of Ehrlich’s campaign team sought to suppress black voter turnout last fall to help Ehrlich at the polls.

One of Ehrlich’s most trusted aides and a campaign consultant areaccused of orchestrating tens of thousands of anonymous election-night robo-calls last year that state prosecutors charge were part of a larger attempt to suppress the black vote.

Maryland: Other states need a lesson from Maryland on robocalls | Baltimore Sun

On Election Day 2010, with the polls still open, computers placed calls to 112,000 voters in predominately African-American precincts in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County with an unusual message: “Relax” and stay home. The recorded message did not identify the calls’ sponsor; essentially, it told voters that Gov. Martin O’Malley had won and they did not need to vote.

Such campaign “dirty tricks” have been part of Maryland elections for years, pursued by both parties largely because the perpetrators judged they would neither be caught nor prosecuted.

In any case, there now are hopeful signs that such hijinks may soon be a thing of the past. A Baltimore grand jury recently returned criminal indictments against two aides to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., charging them with arranging the robocalls in a scheme to suppress voter turnout in heavily Democratic areas. One of the defendants, Julius Henson, also is among the targets of a multimillion-dollar civil suit filed by Maryland and U.S. officials.

Maryland: ‘Relax’ Robocaller’s Lawyer Argues ‘Dirty Tricks’ Are Free Speech | TPMMuckraker

A Maryland political operative behind misleading election day robocalls has a long and colorful history of political tricks so dirty that even in Baltimore political consultants “don’t want to even breathe the same air as him.” But a lawyer representing Julius Henson (who has admitted he was responsible for robocalls telling mostly Democratic voters not to bother going to the polls on Election Day) is arguing that his client’s right to free speech protects such tactics.

Henson, a Democrat, was working for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R) in his campaign against Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). The political operative has a long history in election shenanigans, much of it in the underbelly of campaigns in Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

Editorials: Vote suppression in the Maryland governor’s race? | The Washington Post

“We’re okay. Relax. Everything’s fine.” Those reassuring words phoned to tens of thousands of Maryland residents last year on Election Day were part of a smarmy effort to convince voters that — even though the polls were still open — they need not vote because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) already had won. “The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.” The calls were deceptive and, state prosecutors have concluded, illegal. Their decision to bring criminal charges is a powerful message that such tactics should not be tolerated.

Two political operatives who worked on the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., also a former governor, were indicted by a Baltimore city grand jury Thursday on charges of orchestrating robocalls to more than 100,000 Democratic voters as part of a scheme to suppress the African American vote. Paul E. Schurick, top aide to Mr. Ehrlich, and political consultant Julius Henson were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to violate Maryland election law. Mr. Schurick, a fixture in Maryland politics, was also indicted on a count of obstruction of justice for allegedly withholding documentation that had been subpoenaed. An indictment is an allegation of facts, not proof, and lawyers for both men proclaimed the innocence of their clients. An attorney for Mr. Schurick said the charges were based upon “a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts” and said they would be vigorously challenged.