Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has agreed to spend as much as $5 million on Democrats' court battles against voting laws passed in recent years by Republican-controlled state governments such as in Ohio and Wisconsin.
"We hope to see these unfair laws, which often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, repealed," the Hungarian-born investor has said about the legal battles, describing himself as being "proud" of his involvement, reports The New York Times
Soros political adviser Michael Vachon said the billionaire has given $1 million so far this year to the liberal research super PAC American Bridge.
Backers of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has made the voting laws a cornerstone of her campaign, have been pushing Soros to commit millions of dollars to her super PAC. Soros has not done that so far, the Times says.
The lawsuits against the states are being led by attorney Marc Elias, who is the Clinton campaign's general counsel, the newspaper reports.
This is not Soros' first involvement in voting issues. His first major push in American politics included the America Coming Together voter-mobilization drive in 2004, in an effort to defeat President George W. Bush.
The lawsuits include attacks on voter ID requirements, time restrictions on early voting that make it difficult to cast ballots on the weekend before Election Day, and rules nullifying ballots that are cast in wrong precincts.
The Times reports that Soros was in contact with Elias in January 2014, while the attorney was exploring federal lawsuits before the midterms and before the 2016 cycle, said Vachon. Elias himself refused comment Friday about the lawsuits' funding.
Soros is supporting lawsuits filed in Ohio and Wisconsin last month, and is helping finance a case Elias and other groups filed in North Carolina last year.
Clinton and Democrats argue that the states' voting laws affect poor, minority, and young voters, but Republicans say the new laws, enacted since 2010, serve as protection against election fraud.
Further, Republican opponents point out that the lawsuits, also expected in Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia, are being filed to attract minority voters to support Democrats.
Vachon, though, said it is "disingenuous" for Republicans to say the laws prevent voter fraud, which he claims is "nearly nonexistent," but instead, they are "meant to give Republicans a political advantage on Election Day.”
In addition to representing Clinton's presidential campaign, Elias' client list also includes four major national Democratic Party committees.
In a speech in Houston
on Thursday, Clinton attacked many of her potential Republican opponents for the presidency by name, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who fired back.
"Secretary Clinton doesn't know the first thing about voting rights in New Jersey or in the other states that she attacked," Christie told The Record
of Elmwood Park, New Jersey. "My sense is she just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country.”
Walker commented that Clinton's push against laws that make it "easier to vote and harder to cheat" defies logic and most Americans' wishes.
Vachon told the Times that Elias first approached him last year
about a lawsuit against a North Carolina law that says student identification cards are not acceptable to use as a photo ID for voting, and which ended a program allowing teenagers to fill out a form that automatically registered them to vote on their 18th birthday.
The lawsuit claims that the North Carolina law violates the 26th Amendment, which changed the voting age from 21 to 18. The N.A.A.C.P, the Justice Department, and the American Civil Liberties Union are also involved in the legal case, which is still pending.
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