President Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud are laying the groundwork for a “shameful” campaign of voter suppression, Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general, warned Wednesday.
“The vote fraud mantra is said so often—it’s almost said robotically—that some people have unthinkingly begun to believe that the issue is real,” Holder told a conference of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York City.
“And with recent claims by Mr. Trump of ‘rigged elections’ based on fraud, again without any proof, save the bluster of the candidate,” Holder added, “this mistaken belief in vote fraud becomes almost hardwired.”
As a result, Holder said, “a predicate has been laid for further voter suppression efforts.”
Trump has falsely claimed that he’d have won the popular vote were it not for millions of illegal votes. He’s also said illegal voting stopped him from winning the state of New Hampshire. And during last year’s campaign, he claimed some people vote as many as ten or fifteen times.
Holder’s fear that Trump’s rhetoric is laying the groundwork for new voting restrictions is well-founded. This year, several states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Nebraska, have advanced bills that make voting harder. Iowa lawmakers this month passed a voter ID law that also cuts early voting and eliminates straight-ticket voting. It’s likely to be signed into law soon.
In February, the White House announced that Vice President Mike Pence is leading a task force to look into voter fraud. White House Press Secretary Scott Spicer has said a nationwide voter ID law could be one result. As we reported, a Republican congressman from Indiana recently introduced nationwide voter ID bill.
In his speech Wednesday, Holder accused Republicans of trying to manipulate election rules to their advantage.
“Some Republicans have declared, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, change the rules’” said the former AG. “Make it more difficult for those least likely to support Republican candidates to vote.”
“The attempts in certain states to make even registration more difficult are shameful,” he continued.
Holder also called on more states to offer automatic voter registration, in which people are automatically registered to vote when they come in contact with the DMV, unless they choose to opt out. Six states, including California, have adopted the system over the last two years.
Under Holder, the Justice Department challenged restrictive voting laws passed by Texas and North Carolina, and submitted amicus briefs in support of challenges in Ohio and Wisconsin. Given the scope of voting restrictions passed during his tenure, some advocates have said the department should have done even more.
Holder currently leads a Democratic organization that focuses on the redistricting process.