The Democrat standing in the way of his party’s efforts to protect voting rights

Joe Manchin has publicly signaled that he doesn’t back Democrats’ bill and wants bipartisan support – can senators win him over and move forward?

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Happy Thursday,

For months, Democrats in Congress have remained united behind passing the For the People Act, legislation that would amount to the most sweeping protections for voting rights in a generation.

But those efforts – which would ensure automatic and same-day registration, limit severe partisan gerrymandering and mandate new transparency in political donations – appear to be hitting a wall. “Failure is very much an option – it is, in fact, the most likely one,” the Washington Post reported bluntly earlier this month.

The senator getting in Democrats’ way is one of their own: Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, who has publicly signaled recently that he does not back the bill and wants bipartisan support for it. Manchin also does not favor getting rid of the filibuster, a procedural rule that requires 60 votes for legislation to advance in the Senate, making it nearly impossible for Democrats to pass this bill or any other without support from 10 Republicans. Even after six months of an unprecedented Republican effort to restrict voting rights across the country, Manchin still isn’t budging.

My colleague Daniel Strauss and I wrote about this quagmire for Democrats this week. We asked senators and voting rights groups how exactly they might win over Manchin and how they plan to move forward. They told us they were still optimistic about the bill’s prospects and they thought Manchin would ultimately come around as public pressure grew.

“There is a ticking timebomb,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which supports the bill. If it doesn’t pass “it will be a significant failure for the country, for the American people … I don’t think Joe Manchin wants that on himself.”

Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, told us he saw a “glimmer of hope” last week. He pointed to a letter Manchin released with Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, calling to reinstate a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that would require states to get election changes approved by the federal government before they went into effect. Such provision was originally included in the Voting Rights Act and forestalled discriminatory changes to voting rules, but in 2013 it was gutted by the US supreme court. “Inaction is not an option,” Manchin and Murkowski wrote.

Weiser and other voting rights advocates also pointed to that letter as evidence that Manchin understood the stakes of acting to protect voting rights. But they said it would not be acceptable to treat restoring pre-clearance as a substitute for the more sweeping voting rights bill. Pre-clearance will be a guardrail against future discrimination, they said, but the For the People Act would set a national floor for voting standards.

“It has to be both,” said Stephen Spaulding, senior counsel for public policy and government affairs at Common Cause, a government watchdog group. “They’re both critically important pieces of legislation and it’s a false choice to say I’m for the other and not for this. Because only together will we fully rebalance the state of voting in America to favor access.”

Also worth watching

  • The Republican effort to review 2.1m ballots cast in Arizona’s largest county is getting even stranger. One of the subcontractors that was involved in running the audit is no longer participating, the Arizona Republic reported on Tuesday. The same firm had previously been hired by the non-profit of Sidney Powell, a Trump ally who promulgated lies about the 2020 election, to do an audit in Pennsylvania.

  • There is growing concern that conservative activists are seeking to emulate the Arizona review elsewhere, including in California, Michigan and New Hampshire. Experts say the efforts in Arizona are so shoddy as to be illegitimate, and are simply an effort to sow more uncertainty about the 2020 election results.

  • Texas Republicans are in the final stages of negotiating new voting rights restrictions. The Texas Tribune has a really good analysis of how that law would limit the number of polling places in Democratic-leaning areas as well as areas where there is a high share of voters of color.


Sam Levine in New York

The GuardianTramp

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