The Obama administration filed court papers Wednesday challenging Republican-backed election laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the legal fights over voting rights spread beyond traditional Southern borders. In Wisconsin, the Justice Department filed a brief supporting a previous federal court ruling against the state’s photo identification requirement, which was deemed unfair to minority voters. In Ohio, the Justice Department weighed in against a law limiting early voting and same day registration. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, said the two states’ voting laws “represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” adding that both measures “threaten access to the ballot box.” Mr. Holder had previously signaled his department would take legal action against Ohio and Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has defended his state’s identification law as necessary to prevent voter fraud that could sway an election. His office didn’t immediately comment on Wednesday’s filing.
Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, said, “It’s hard to understand why the Justice Department is targeting our state, especially when we have 28 days of early voting which surpasses the national average of 19… . I think their time would be better spent educating Ohioans about how easy it is to vote, rather than trying to scare them into thinking otherwise.”
The legal skirmishes between the administration and some states’ Republican officials have intensified since last year’s Supreme Court ruling invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act, which required certain jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to get preapproval from federal authorities before changing voting laws.