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Holder backs voting lawsuits in Ohio and Wisconsin

The Justice Department is lending support to lawsuits seeking to overturn voting restrictions passed in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department July 14, 2014.
Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department July 14, 2014.

The Justice Department is lending its support to lawsuits filed by activists in Ohio and Wisconsin against Republican-backed voting laws that they say have a negative impact on minority voters. 

“These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released by the Justice Department. “These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken." 

Ohio and Wisconsin are two swing states with recently passed voting restrictions. In February, Ohio passed laws cutting back on same-day voter registration, the state's early voting period, and access to absentee ballots. The Justice Department's filing in the Ohio case "makes clear" that the Voting Rights Act "prohibits the state of Ohio from imposing any voting qualification, prerequisite to voting, or any standard, practice or procedure that would result in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of a person’s race, color or membership in a language minority group." Wisconsin's strict voter ID law was struck down by a federal judge in May, and the Justice Department is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to uphold that ruling. 

Holder announced that the Justice Department would be intervening in both lawsuits in early July, so the decision was expected. As msnbc previously reported, these filings mark the first time the Justice Department is intervening in voting disputes outside the parts of the country previously covered by a key section of the Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.