Schurick Sentenced in Robocalling; Md. Vote Suppression History Reviewed

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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.

Several political leaders of both political parties appealed for leniency in the case, the Washington Post reported before the sentencing. They casted his action as a mistake that marred an otherwise professional record.

Maryland's robocall scandal follows a political tradition of dirty tricks in the state, typically aimed at minority voters:

* Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler told WKNO in 2008, flyers were circulating warning voters with child support or parking ticket debts as well as immigrants they'd be arrested at the polls.

* Instead of suppressing minority votes, Republicans sought to divert them by providing false endorsements of Republican candidates by prominent black community leaders in Maryland's 2006 gubernatorial race.

* In the 2002 gubernatorial race, Ehrlich operatives passed out fliers in black and Hispanic communities saying, "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," the Voting News said.

* In the 1988 gubernatorial election, a close race between Democrat Parris Glendening and Republican Ellen Sauerbray, Glendening forces portrayed Sauerbray as a racist in ads targeted to black voters, saying she'd roll back the clock on civil rights. The ads accused her of opposing the civil rights laws and pictured black faces. The civil rights laws Sauerbray voted against involved rewording an open housing statute, requiring police to document crimes against gays, and providing sexual harassment protections, according to Real Clear Politics. Sauerbray lost the election.

* Republican opponents of U.S. Senator Millard Tydings posed as young Democrats in 1950, showing off a doctored photo of Tydings meeting with the head of the American Communist Party. Though favored 5 to 1, Tydings lost the election, the Gazette said.

Carol Bengle Gilbert writes about Maryland and the District of Columbia for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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