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Billionaire William Louis-Dreyfus Calls On Fellow Rich To Battle Voter Suppression

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A wealthy businessman is calling on his fellow wealthy people to fight voter suppression, which he says is a mortal threat to American democracy.

William Louis-Dreyfus announced in a full-page ad in The New York Times on Tuesday that he has pledged $1 million to protect voting rights, and he asked others to join him.

If Louis-Dreyfus' name sounds familiar, it could be because he ran the eponymous global commodity trading company founded by his great-great-grandfather -- or it could be because his daughter, Julia, played Elaine in the television show "Seinfeld," and now plays the title character in "Veep."

"There is no right more fundamental to our republic than the right to vote," Louis-Dreyfus wrote in his message. "And yet there is a countrywide effort to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from voting. Many supporters of that suppression effort have admitted or implied that its purpose is to win an election by preventing voters thought to be of a different political persuasion from voting at all."

Indeed, Republicans around the country have passed legislation and encouraged moves to require voters to provide photo ID, restrict voter registration, eliminate early voting, purge voter rolls and send pollwatchers into minority precincts. These measures are all ostensibly intended to prevent voter fraud, which is objectively a nonissue.

Making voting harder rather than easier does, on the other hand, dissuade if not actively block some low income, elderly, minority or disabled people from voting. Such efforts have historically most affected groups more likely to vote for Democratic Party candidates.

As Louis-Dreyfus noted, some Republicans have been blunt about their motives. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, for instance, famously bragged in June about having passed "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."

Louis-Dreyfus' specific concern: "If the election were to be decided because of that effort, then a poison will have been injected in the blood of our democracy. And that represents as great a danger to our democracy as has ever existed from within our borders."

Why should the rich care? Louis-Dreyfus explained: "Among the many things that contributed to my wealth is the political society in which it was earned. The voter suppression effort is a direct assault on that society and on the democracy which it created. We who have the blessing of our millions need to know that protecting our assets demands preserving the democracy that made them possible."

Louis-Dreyfus called for donations to nonpartisan organizations working to protect voting rights, and particularly to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred to William Louis-Dreyfus as a billionaire. He was not on the Forbes list at the time this story was published and is not otherwise known to hold more than a billion dollars. We have updated the story accordingly.

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