Until recently, William Louis-Dreyfus was just another retired multimillionaire, giving his art collection away to charity and watching his actress daughter Julia on TV. He followed politics, but not to the point of actually doing much about it.

"I've never gotten involved in that way," the 80-year-old businessman told HuffPost on Wednesday from his home in New York's Westchester County.

But when Louis-Dreyfus learned that some Americans were trying to block others Americans from voting, he got seriously riled up.

"If something impedes the right of the people to vote, I can't think of anything more lethal to happen to our basic principles," he said. "It's a damn outrage, and I don't understand why everyone -- Republican and Democrat alike -- are not shocked to their shoe tops."

So when New York Times readers opened the front section of the newspaper Tuesday, they found a full-page ad in which Louis-Dreyfus announced his $1 million donation to fight voter suppression, explained why, and challenged his fellow wealthy Americans to do likewise.

It was headlined, "A Call to Arms to the Wealthy to Protect the Right to Vote."

The ad ran amid growing national awareness of the Republican voter suppression campaign and its possible effects on the November election. On the same day, a Pennsylvania judge temporarily blocked a strict voter identification law that opponents worried would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters -- many of them minorities -- and might even have swung a swing state.

Over the last decade and especially since President Barack Obama's election in 2008, many Republican lawmakers have focused on making it harder to vote. The GOP takeover of several state houses in 2010 was followed by 19 new laws requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls, rolling back early voting, and impeding the registration of new voters. Similarly, Republicans have pushed to purge voter rolls and are preparing to send pollwatchers to certain precincts.

While the GOP insists its goal is to deter voter fraud, there is no evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem in the U.S. Selective disenfranchisement, by contrast, is a historic problem. Democrats are concerned that the GOP's efforts will have the practical effect of blocking or dissuading people of limited means, minorities, students and the elderly from voting, thereby reducing the number of Democratic votes.

Louis-Dreyfus stepped down five years ago from running the global commodities giant that bears his last name. Not a major political contributor by mogul standards, he has primarily supported Democrats, though not exclusively. He insisted that, contrary to a 6-year-old Forbes ranking, he is not a billionaire.

And he entirely dismisses the voter fraud argument. "I'm not only not convinced," he said, "it seems to me that the other side is making that argument because it can't really say the truth."

His galvanizing political moment came, he said, when he considered the possibility that voter suppression "might result in Romney's being elected in circumstances that were in effect fraudulent. And it occurred to me that was as serious a result for our country as any I could think of."

As long as nobody's voting rights are violated, "whoever gets elected is fine with me," he said.

On the other hand: "If people get elected by other means, then we might as well have the government carry guns against us. If you think about it, it's very, very upsetting. It scares me to death."

The New York Times ad ended with a call for donations to nonpartisan voter protection organizations, and included the contact information for one of them, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Several hundred people contacted the Brennan Center after the ad ran, Louis-Dreyfus said, including one person who contributed $10,000.

So far, no other tycoons have signed up, but he isn't disappointed, he said. He just hopes he's sparked some discussion -- and some outrage. "If one doesn't get excited about this, what's it going to take to get one excited?" he asked. "What's surprising about this is that there isn't more awareness and more outrage."

He doesn't understand that, he said. "I think we are a little bit complacent in this country with regard to our system," he said. "And the press, if you don't mind my saying, doesn't do a splendid job in underlining the real facts."

The part of the Times ad that seemed to resonate most with HuffPost commenters on Tuesday was Louis-Dreyfus' acknowledgement that "[w]e who have the blessing of our millions" have a particular stake in preserving democracy.

One commenter wrote: "At least some of the 1% have honor and worry about true American values. There is hope for us yet."

Louis-Dreyfus has a lot to say on the subject of wealth. "If you are rich in this country, it is a consequence of a number of things -- surely your talent and your hard work, but it's also a consequence of the political society we live in," he said.

"It's always been so that with money comes power, and there's probably very little we can do about it. But if on top of that particular fact we organize to interfere with the right of the people to vote, it must mean the wealthy don't feel they have enough power."

On a personal level, Louis-Dreyfus is working to end the cycle of poverty by donating works from his private art collection to the Harlem's Children Zone, educator and activist Geoffrey Canada's project aimed at helping poor children get a good education.

But fighting voter suppression required a more public act.

His daughter -- who famously played Elaine in "Seinfeld," and now the "Veep" on HBO -- helped edit the Times ad, he said.

She also issued her own statement after the ad ran, saying: "One of the proudest aspects of this nation's history has been the expansion of the franchise -- once just the province of white, landed men, it now belongs to all adults. Those who seek to take the vote away from American citizens stand against history. I'm proud instead to stand with my father."

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Pennsylvania

    You're an average voter in Pennsylvania. The night before Election Day, your wallet goes missing, leaving you without immediate access to any of the identification you'll need to vote at your local precinct the following morning. This would be a problem under <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#PA" target="_hplink">Pennsylvania's proposed photo ID law</a>, since <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/pennsylvania-voter-id-ruling_n_1919187.html" target="_hplink">blocked by a state judge</a>. While many people in this situation may have backup forms of identification, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/05/pennsylvania-voter-id-law_n_1652469.html" target="_hplink">studies have shown</a> that a significant percentage of would-be voters don't. The state's safeguard against the immediate disenfranchisement of people in this situation would be a provisional ballot cast on the day of the election. But this doesn't mean your vote counts, yet. Anyone who casts a provisional ballot is required to "appear in person at the county board of elections" within six days of the vote to provide proof that their ballot was valid. If you're able to take time away from your job to do this, the process still requires a would-be voter to either show up with valid ID -- a replacement driver's license <a href="http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/fees/index.shtml" target="_hplink">would cost $36</a> and considerable time -- or to <a href="http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/voterid/VoterAffirmationNoProofofID.pdf" target="_hplink">sign an affirmation</a> that you are indigent and not able to afford the fees associated with acquiring a photo ID. Even if you make a rapid and somewhat expensive turnaround to get a replacement ID -- or alternatively swear under oath that you are too poor to pay for such a document -- there is no guarantee that your vote will end up counting. Many elections are largely decided before provisional voters have a chance to verify their validity, which could serve to discouraging them from following up with election officials or leave them effectively disenfranchised. In 2008, <a href="http://www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey EAVS Report.pdf" target="_hplink">only 61.8 percent</a> of all provisional ballots cast were fully counted. If strict photo ID measures were implemented, however, the number of provisional ballots submitted would likely increase, as would the requirements for voters hoping to make them count. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>

  • Georgia

    Eleven percent of eligible voters say they lack current government-issued photo IDs, a <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf" target="_hplink">survey</a> on the potential impact of voter ID laws found. You live in Georgia and you're one of them. Like 66,515 other Georgians, according to a <a href="http://brennan.3cdn.net/773c569439b50452e0_kzm6bo5l6.pdf" target="_hplink">recent study</a> from the Brennan Center for Justice, you also lack vehicle access and live more than 10 miles from an office that issues state ID. As a registered voter who's skipped the past few elections, you decide you'll vote this year. But you spend your life working multiple jobs to provide for your family, not tuned in to a news cycle that may have told you about a voter ID law that changed the requirements. If you were aware of the measure, you'd know that you have to get yourself to a state office during business hours to procure a photo ID in order to vote. According to the Brennan Center, these facilities are often only open part time, especially in areas with the highest concentration of people of color and in poverty. While the state does offer a free photo ID initiative, the Brennan Center points out that many of the offices provide confusing or inaccurate information about what Georgians need to do to get one. This may be a tough task as you juggle a strenuous work schedule with other commitments -- and that's assuming you're aware of the requirement. But you're not, so you head to your voting precinct on election day with no access to an acceptable form of identification and vote with a provisional ballot. To <a href="http://sos.georgia.gov/gaphotoid/3679BasicVotingInfo_printer final.pdf" target="_hplink">verify that ballot</a>, you'll have two days to present appropriate photo ID at your county registrar's office, which at this point wouldn't be doable. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>

  • Tennessee

    As an elderly Tennessee resident, you've made a decades-long Election Day habit of traveling to your local polling place and exercising your franchise. It's an important day for you, and it gives you the rare opportunity to leave your house, where you live alone. For a number of years, you've had an identification card that allows you to vote. But thanks to the state's strict new voter ID law, that document will no longer be sufficient. Reports <a href="http://www.wbir.com/news/article/185824/2/Tennessee-voter-ID-law-awaits-effect-on-seniors" target="_hplink">found</a> that 230,000 Tennesseans older than 60 possess driver's licenses that don't have photos on them. Such ID will not be accepted at polling places in November. While the state has agreed to issue photo IDs free to anyone who asks, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/tennessee-voter-id-law-program_n_1669323.html" target="_hplink">recent study</a> found that only a tiny percentage of potential targets have applied. Perhaps that's because people like you weren't aware of exactly how the change was going to affect them. Maybe you weren't even aware of the change. Poll workers tell you that you can cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. You'll <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#tn" target="_hplink">have until</a> "the close of business on the second business day after the election" to find an applicable piece of identification -- which you don't have -- and present it to a designated elections official. Whether it's your lack of an acceptable form of identification, the difficulty in finding transportation back to the elections official, or the prospect of having to go through the drain of the entire process again, you're discouraged, and give up. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>

  • Kansas

    You're a resident of Kansas in your early 60s, fully expecting to vote in November. Your driver's license is your primary form of ID, but you rarely carry it anymore. You don't drive and you haven't traveled abroad in years, leaving your passport expired or lost. In the months before the election, you changed addresses, and for some reason never received a notification from the state reminding you that your license had expired. On the day of the election, you head to your polling place, unaware that you're about to be told your license is expired and therefore invalid according to the state's new voter ID law (Kansans over the age of 65 can use expired IDs, but you're not there yet). You're given a provisional ballot and informed that <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#Kansas" target="_hplink">you must</a> now "provide a valid form of identification to the county election officer in person or provide a copy by mail or electronic means before the meeting of the county board of canvassers." While Kansas says it has <a href="http://www.wycokck.org/Internet2010ElectionBanner.aspx?menu_id=1092&banner=27765&id=26946" target="_hplink">historically counted</a> around 70 percent of its provisional ballots, this year provides a different landscape. The next steps can be somewhat difficult, and with the enacting of the state's photo ID law, the use of such ballots will undoubtedly become more commonplace. Faced with disenfranchisement, you must now race against the clock to have your vote included. With no other acceptable forms of ID available, you go about the process of renewing your license. <a href="http://www.ksrevenue.org/renewingdl.html" target="_hplink">According to the state</a>, this requires you to make your way to a state office, where you'll have to provide a number of identifying documents and pay the fee. By the time you can find someone to chauffeur you through this process -- public transportation is complex and unreliable where you live, <a href="http://www.kansas.com/2012/07/24/2418365/voter-id-law-burdens-wichita.html" target="_hplink">even if you're in an urban center</a> -- most of the major election results have been announced on the news. You decide the undertaking isn't worth the time. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>

  • Indiana

    You're a first-time voter in Indiana who <a href="https://forms.in.gov/Download.aspx?id=9341" target="_hplink">registered to vote</a> at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles using your Social Security number, a process that also <a href="http://www.in.gov/bmv/2339.htm" target="_hplink">required you</a> to get a state identification card, which you placed in your wallet. As a recent high school graduate who commutes with other workers to your full time job on a farm, you rarely need to present identification, so you didn't even bother to get a new ID card when it went missing from your locker a few weeks before the election. You risk potential firing when you travel to your polling place with other members of your community on voting day, but you're intent on participating in your first election. Without valid photo ID, however, you don't get to pull the lever. Under Indiana's new photo ID law, you're instead required to fill out a provisional ballot. But you're told you'll still need to jump through additional hoops that could prove too demanding. Now tasked with making visits during business hours to both the Indiana BMV to <a href="http://www.dmv.com/in/indiana/drivers-license-replacement" target="_hplink">get a replacement ID</a>, and then to the <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id.aspx#in" target="_hplink">county elections board</a> to verify your ballot, you decide keeping your job is more important than voting. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>

  • Pennsylvania, Part II

    Viviette Applewhite was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's new voter ID measure. She's a 93-year-old great-great grandmother who has voted regularly for decades. She claimed she didn't have access to any of the documents she'd need to vote. With no driver's license and no birth certificate, needed to get a photo ID, Applewhite said she'd be disenfranchised by the law. And she wasn't the only one. A <a href="http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/applewhiteetalvcommonwealt/voteridclients.htm" target="_hplink">number of other plantiffs in the ACLU case</a> against Pennsylvania's photo ID law claimed they had been unsuccessful in attempts to get copies of their birth certificates and other papers due to complexities in the state's record-keeping. Most claimed the measure would take away their vote. The law has since been blocked for this election cycle.

  • Georgia, Part II

    You're a longtime resident of Georgia, but you've just recently returned home from a six-month out-of-town assignment from your job. You get into town on the Monday before Election Day. Most of your possessions are still being shipped from halfway across the country. Old friends invite you to a bar to catch up, but in the process of removing your driver's license from your wallet to present to a bouncer, it cracks in half, leaving it officially invalidated. Without a valid license, you won't be able to cast a ballot the next day. You'd renew it and choke down the $20 or more fee <a href="http://www.dmv.org/ga-georgia/id-cards.php#Replacing-an-ID-Card-" target="_hplink">for the replacement</a>, but the documents you need to present are in the moving truck. An election official informs you that you can fill out a provision ballot on Election Day. To <a href="http://sos.georgia.gov/gaphotoid/3679BasicVotingInfo_printer final.pdf" target="_hplink">verify that ballot</a>, you'll have two days afterward to present appropriate photo ID at your county registrar's office. Either you're telling the moving company to drive twice the speed limit for the next 48 hours straight, or you're accepting your disenfranchisement. <em>(Photo: AP)</em>