Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is taking action against the states of Ohio and Wisconsin for their voter ID laws. But on Thursday the Wisconsin law passed the legal hurdles at the state level.
Attorney General Eric Holder announces at the Justice Department in Washington Monday, July 14, 2014, that Citigroup will pay $7 billion to settle an investigation into risky subprime mortgages, the type that helped fuel the financial crisis. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
While two cases challenging the Wisconsin voter ID law are pending in federal court, the state Supreme Court upheld photo ID at the polling place as constitutional.
“Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections,” Walker said in a statement Thursday. “People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted. We look forward to the same result from the federal court of appeals.”
However, Holder, in his announcement, said the department must tackle the “pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy.”
Both Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are both frequently mentioned as possible Republican presidential candidates in 2016.
“These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” Holder said in a statement. “These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box. The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American. And we will keep using every available tool at our disposal to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.”
The Justice Department has filed similar lawsuits to end the voter photo ID laws in Texas and North Carolina, claiming it unfairly burdens minority and elderly voters who are less likely to have a photo ID. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld Indiana's photo ID law as constitutional.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief in the cases of Frank v. Walker and LULAC v. Deininger, supporting an earlier ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin that struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Separately, the department filed statement of interest in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in case of NAACP v. Husted.
Both of the department filings support the claims that voter ID laws are discriminatory.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's spokesman Matt McClellan expressed surprise by the federal action.
"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,” McClellan told the Wall Street Journal. “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.”
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