Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Proof of Republican vote Suppression

One of the hotly contested areas in state legislation in recent years has been Republican attempts to create new, onerous identification requirements for voting and registering to vote. Republicans claim that all they are interested in is the integrity of our sacred ballot, while liberals and Democrats have pointed out that these efforts are no more than a thinly veiled attempt to prevent one of the most reliable Democratic voting blocks from voting.

For example, Attorney General Eric Holder has argued that voter suppression efforts are inconsistent with the values embedded in American democracy.

“I am not talking about any one particular state effort, but more generally I think for those who would consider trying to use methods, techniques to discourage people from coming to the polls — that’s inconsistent with what we say we are as a nation,” Holder said.

Evidence in a new case in Maryland proves that the Republican claims are the transparent lies we have argued they are, and that they have, in fact, been engaged in a systematic effort to keep black voters away from the polls.

The case is a prosecution for election law violations by the campaign of former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich. The Washington Post reports that in the lead-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, Ehrlich's campaign placed over 100.000 anonymous robocalls to the predominantly black Baltimore and Prince George's Counties, telling voters there that the election was in the bag for the Democratic candidate and that they could “relax.”

Without anything more this seems like a pretty clear-cut case of suppression, right? The jury agreed, and convicted Ehrlich’s campaign manager Paul Ehrlich of four counts of election law violations.

Documents obtained in the case prove beyond any question that the whole point of this campaign was to suppress the black vote. For instance in a campaign briefing document called the Schurick Doctrine the consultants say “The Schurick Doctrine is designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African American democrats, focused in precincts where high concentrations of AA vote. As a result of the doctrine, the three favorable outcomes will benefit Republicans on Election Day. The three outcomes are: Don’t Vote (Stay Home), Don’t Vote at the Top of the Ticket ( Skip Box/Bracket for Governor), and Vote Republican (largely due to our persuasion messaging).

Another page of handwritten notes from Rhonda Russell, who worked for the campaign, included the note “suppress turnout in Black communities”.

How do you defend the indefensible? Well, the Republican defendants claimed that the robocalls had nothing to do with suppressing black vote, it was just part of a “reverse psychology” strategy, whereby their calls to black voters would somehow motivate their white conservative base to get out to vote.

Of course, anyone who has worked on campaigns and knows about how they work knows that the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort is designed to make sure that identified supporters vote by calling them and reminding them to vote, not by calling people who you expect to support your opponent.

In other words, what we have argued for many years, racism in Republican efforts at vote suppression, has just been proved beyond a doubt.

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