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What is the Obama administration doing on voting rights?

In May 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder called the right to vote “the most treasured of all our rights,” and said, “I will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General, to defend that right to vote.”

To do that, he intervened in some voting rights lawsuits.

  • In July 2014, Holder weighed in against Ohio’s law restricting early voting, filing a “statement of interest” on behalf of the Department of Justice arguing that the law violated the Voting Rights Act by making it more difficult for African Americans to vote.
  • In July 2014, the DOJ also filed an amicus brief supporting a federal judge’s striking down of a Wisconsin law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
  • In January, 2015, the department intervened in a lawsuit accusing a South Dakota county of disenfranchising Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Holder also called on states to repeal laws that deny voting rights to people who have been convicted of felonies.

But the administration can’t do much more than this. It’s really up to Congress to pass the kind of legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act protections that were struck down by the decision in Shelby.

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