A Democratic legal fight against restrictive voting laws enacted in recent years by Republican-controlled state governments is being largely paid for by a single liberal benefactor: the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
Mr. Soros, the Hungarian-born investor whose first major involvement in American politics was a voter-mobilization drive in the 2004 presidential race, has yet to commit the many millions of dollars that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s allies hope he and other like-minded billionaires will pour into the “super PAC” directly aiding her campaign.
But it turns out that Mr. Soros has already agreed to put as much as $5 million into the litigation effort, which Democrats hope will erode restrictions on voter access that they say could otherwise prove decisive in a close election.
The lawsuits — which are being led by a lawyer whose clients include Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — are attacking a variety of measures, including voter-identification requirements that Democrats consider onerous, time restrictions imposed on early voting that they say could make it difficult to cast ballots the weekend before Election Day, and rules that could nullify ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
The lawyer, Marc Elias, who specializes in voter-protection issues, was in contact with Mr. Soros in January 2014 when Mr. Elias was exploring a series of federal lawsuits before that year’s midterm election and in advance of the 2016 campaign, according to Mr. Soros’s political adviser, Michael Vachon. (Mr. Elias declined to comment on Friday about the funding of the lawsuits.)
The goal is to try to influence voting rules in states where Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures have enacted election laws since 2010, and to be ready to intervene if additional measures are passed over the next 17 months.