In December, Schurick was convicted of four charges related to election fraud. He was sentenced to 30 days of home detention and 500 hours of community service. He is expected to remain on probation for four years.

Schurick's lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, said Friday that the Henson verdict may provide an opportunity for a court to dismiss Schurick's conviction. Schurick had been found guilty on conspiracy charges, but with Henson being acquitted of most charges, Pettit said the verdict disproves any collusion to break the law.

"If only one person is convicted, I don't think you have an conspiracy," Pettit said. He has already asked the Baltimore City Circuit Court to reconsider Schurick's sentence, and asked the Court of Special Appeals to intervene.

Shaun Dakin, founder of the National Political Do Not Contact Registry, StopPoliticalCalls.org, said robocalls such as the one Henson wrote for Ehrlich happen in almost every election cycle throughout the country. Some states, including Indiana, Wyoming, New Jersey and California, ban all robocalls; but fewer enforce the laws. Maryland does not ban political robocalls.

Federal law exempts all political calls from the National Do Not Call Registry. Dakin's nonpartisan nonprofit is pushing for Congress to allow Americans to opt out of political calls, just as they can for consumer calls. So far, more than 400,000 people have signed up for the registry.

The Pew Research Center reported that 69 percent of voters received a robocall during the 2010 election cycle, a percentage that grew steadily during the final weeks of campaigning.

Dakin said it is common for robocalls — whether they are banned in a state or cross the line into fraud — to elicit calls for prosecution during an election. But typically such efforts are abandoned after the polls close. So, Henson's comparison to jaywalking is fair, Dakin said.

"People have very short memories," Dakin said. "The minute an election is over … everyone wants to move on."

Dakin doesn't think the prosecutions of Henson and Schurick will do much to change the practice nationwide.

"I think political consultants are paying attention," Dakin said. "They will obviously pay attention in Maryland. I don't think, however, in the rest of the country this will really mean much."

Lester Spence, a Johns Hopkins University assistant professor of political science, said he considers Henson's 2010 robocall to be "deeply, deeply racist and deeply undemocratic." Spence said the convictions are meaningful, because prosecuting Henson shows such acts are inappropriate.

"While some probably will question why he wasn't found guilty of more charges, I will take whatever we can get," Spence said.

Spence said those who engage in campaign "dirty tricks" aren't "thinking in larger democratic terms, they're thinking, 'What can I do to shave off a tenth of a percent of the other guy's turnout?' What they're really doing is corrupting democracy. They're corrupting a system that many people already think — with good reason — is corrupt."

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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ter contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger