Obama admin to join voting rights cases in Ohio and Wisconsin

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By Zachary Roth,

from MSNBC,

The Obama administration plans to join lawsuits against Republican-backed voting restrictions in two major swing states, Attorney General Eric Holder has said.

The moves would represent the first time that Holder’s Justice Department has intervened against statewide voting laws outside the areas that the Supreme Court freed from federal oversight in last year’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling. They underline the administration’s intention to aggressively protect voting rights across the country, not only in the mostly southern jurisdictions directly affected by Shelby.

“I expect that we are going to be filing in cases that are already in existence in Wisconsin as well as in Ohio,” Holder said in an unaired portion of an interview with Pierre Thomas of ABC News, according to a transcript provided by the Justice Department to msnbc. The interview was conducted Friday in London, where Holder was attending meetings about terrorism threats.

Holder called the right to vote “the most basic of all our rights,” adding: “I will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.”

Earlier this year, Ohio’s Republican legislature passed laws that cut six days from the early voting period and ended same-day registration, among other restrictions. Secretary of State Jon Husted then announced that there would be no early voting on Sundays or on week-day evenings.

A federal judge recently restored early voting on the last three days before the election, but the other cuts remain in force. They’re being challenged by the ACLU and other civil rights groups, which allege that they disproportionately affect non-white voters.

Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law was recently struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that it discriminated against black voters. But the state has appealed the ruling, and the litigation is ongoing.

f the voting restrictions remain in place in Ohio and Wisconsin, they could give Republican candidates a boost this fall and in 2016, by reducing turnout among minorities and perhaps students. Both states could be pivotal in the 2016 presidential race.

Holder has made clear that he views protecting voting rights as a top priority for his tenure as attorney general. In addition to the North Carolina lawsuit, the Justice Department also is challenging Texas’s strict voter ID law.

Holder also used the interview to criticize voter ID laws, calling them “political efforts” that make it harder to vote for “groups that are not supportive of those in power.”

“Who is disproportionately impacted by them? Young people, African-Americans, Hispanics, older people, people who, for whatever reason, aren’t necessarily supportive of the Republican Party,” Holder said, adding: “This notion that there is widespread in-person voter fraud is simply belied by the facts.”

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