Sen. Joe Manchin might have just killed Democrats’ dreams of passing comprehensive election reform. The senator announced Sunday that will not support the For the People Act, making him the only senate Democrat not in favor of it.
If passed, the For the People Act would expand access to the ballot through automatic and same-day voter registration, expanded early voting access, and no-excuse absentee voting. The legislation would also reform the way congressional districts are drawn to prevent gerrymandering and strengthen ethics and transparency rules around big money political donations. And it would reform the Federal Election Commission so that it can enforce the new rules and regulations.
So what is Manchin’s reason? Republicans don’t like the bill. No members of the GOP have endorsed it or announced their intent to vote for it.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics,” Manchin wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, a paper in his home state of West Virginia. “Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.”
That’s pretty much it. That’s his argument. But that thinking doesn’t take into account that Republicans are actively working, and often succeeding, at suppressing the vote at the state level, which will disproportionately affect voters of color.
Since 2020, the Brennan Center for Justice reports that at least 14 states have enacted 22 new voter suppression laws. And those laws are the result of largely partisan Republican bills. From Georgia to Florida and Texas, Americans are losing their voting rights, access to simple things like water while waiting in line at a polling place or the ability to easily vote absentee. But a Brennan Center analysis shows that the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) would block many of the measures in those laws.
“Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why?” the senator wrote. “Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?”
Yes. That’s exactly it. One party wants all voting-age Americans to have simple access to the ballot. Republicans (and also, apparently, Joe Manchin) don’t.
Manchin did endorse the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would help restore portions of the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court. That bill does have some Republican support, but it is not mutually exclusive with the For the People Act. Both strengthen voting rights in different ways.