Black Political Operative on Trial for Allegedly Suppressing Black Voters

Julius Henson says it’s payback for working for a Republican.

Posted: 05/01/2012 08:37 AM EDT
Politics News, Barack Obama, President Barack Obama, President Obama, voting rights, voter suppression

Julius Henson, a longtime Baltimore political strategist, is on trial this week, facing charges that he used robo-calls to discourage Black voter turnout in Maryland’s 2010 general election while working on the campaign of former Republican governor Robert Ehrlich in his race against incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. Henson’s legal team will argue that he’s being politically persecuted because he crossed party lines to work for a Republican candidate.


“They just want to sensationalize it, emotionalize it and say, ‘Oh Julius Henson didn’t want Black people to vote.’ OK, I’ve gotten more Black people elected in this state, period, ever,” Henson said before jury selection on Monday, Fox News reports. “And as a matter of fact, I’m known for getting turnout up. That’s why the Ehrlich people hired me in the first place.”


The automated telephone calls went out to more than 110,000 Democrats and suggested that O’Malley and President Obama, who was not on the ballot, had won the night.


“Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight,” the recorded voice said.


Prosecutors say the goal was to trick Black Democrats into believing that there was no need to turn up at the polls. But according to Henson’s attorney, Edwards Smith Jr., the call also went to “plenty of whites, Chinese and others.”


Even if that’s true, prosecutors will argue that the calls were an illegal attempt to influence voters’ decisions. They also have one thing in their favor as the trial against Henson proceeds. Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul Schurick, was convicted and sentenced last December for his role in the scheme.


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(Photo: Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

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