Politics Joe Manchin’s sweeping new voting rights proposal, explained
The left hates Joe Manchin. His fellow Senate Dems are staying quiet.
Yet angst is quietly rising inside the Democratic caucus over his approach. “Of course I’m frustrated. Who isn’t frustrated?” one Democratic senator said.After all, the 50-vote Senate majority needs Manchin's vote to do just about anything. So not even its most progressive members seem to want to poke the bear.
No voting rights bill will become law without Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) approval, at least in the current Congress. The conservative Democrat is the median vote in the Senate, and he’s a frequent source of frustration for other members of his party. Earlier this month, Manchin, a comprehensive voting rights bill backed by Democratic leadership, effectively killing any hope that the bill could become law during the current Congress.
But on Wednesday, Manchin did something unexpected: He released a, potentially scrambling the congressional debate over voting rights as the Senate prepares to vote on Democratic leaders’ proposal.
Some Democrats wonder when Schumer will get tough with Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin's defiant statement that he will not vote for a sweeping election reform bill nor vote to get rid of the filibuster has progressive groups and some Democratic lawmakers wondering when Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will get tough with the West Virginia Democrat.Manchin is a member of Schumer's leadership team and Schumer has several points of leverage, including the power to replace him as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But Schumer doesn't have a reputation for getting tough with colleagues. Instead, he keeps them close and hardly ever criticizes Democratic senators who cause him headaches.
Manchin’s list includes many reforms drawn from the For the People Act as well as from a companion voting rights bill known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Significantly, Manchin endorsed banning partisan gerrymandering — a high priority for both small-d democrats and large-D Democrats, who want to prevent the GOP fromwith rigged congressional maps.
Not everything on Manchin’s list will delight his fellow Democrats. He proposes a nationwide voter ID law, for example, although not an especially strict one. And he wants states to be able to engage in “maintenance of voter rolls”— purging names from the state’s list of registered voters — using state and federal documents to identify which voters should be purged.
Manchin's staunch opposition to ending filibuster may imperil Biden's agenda, including infrastructure
Manchin dashed hopes on the left that recent events might compel him to reconsider his support for keeping the Senate's 60-vote rule to pass bills.The moderate Democrat, in a Sunday op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, not only revealed his opposition to the Democratic-backed For the People Act but reiterated he won't vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.
Manchin would also water down the John Lewis Act, a bill that seeks to restore voting rights protections that the— though Manchin’s weaker version of the John Lewis Act would still be much more protective of voting rights than current law.
The West Virginia senator’s proposal, in other words, falls short of the dreams of Democratic leaders and voting rights advocates who rallied behind the For the People Act, whichin March. And it is still almost certainly doomed unless Manchin agrees to eliminate the GOP minority’s ability to filibuster voting rights bills — a move Manchin has — or somehow miraculously musters support from 10 Republicans (in addition to all 50 Democrats).
But Democrats and other supporters of democracy would have a great deal to celebrate if Manchin’s list of proposed reforms did become law. And his decision to release such a comprehensive and well-thought-out list of proposals should give some hope to reformers, as it suggests Manchin does want to pass a voting rights bill — even if it isn’t the specific bill that many advocates want.
Inside Biden and Manchin's Joemance
Democratic senators say that only the president can convince the influential centrist to sign off on key parts of the party's agenda.Four months after Biden helped secure Manchin’s vote for a party-line, $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law, the president is taking a different approach with the West Virginia Democrat who's blocking multiple party priorities. Biden didn't sound pleased last week when, during a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre, he appeared to take a public swipe at Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) by citing two Democrats who frequently sided with Republicans.
So what’s on Manchin’s list?
Manchin’sis quite long. It combines more than two dozen itemized proposals, including making Election Day a national holiday, requiring states to notify voters if their polling place is moved close to an election, providing more robust disclosures of campaign finances, and a requirement that all candidates for president or vice president disclose their tax forms.
The most significant proposal on the list is a ban on partisan gerrymandering, at least at the congressional level. States are required toto account for shifting population, and the latest redistricting cycle is about to begin. Republicans are expected to benefit from this process, in part because they , such as Texas and Florida, and in part because many large blue states, such as California, to draw legislative lines.
Shortly before the last redistricting cycle, Republicans won crushing victories in the 2010 midterm elections, allowing them to draw very potent gerrymanders in many states. Indeed, these maps were so potent that Democrats might have needed toin 2012 (the first election conducted under the 2010 maps) in order to carry the House.
The Democratic Senators Hiding Behind Joe Manchin
It was March 5, right before the Senate’s doomed vote to raise the minimum wage to $15, and, as usual, Sen. Joe Manchin was the center of attention. But there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism. That tally surprisedBut there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism.
This time around, Republicans probably won’t be able to give themselves quite as much of an advantage — Democrats control several key governor’s mansions and will likely be able to veto gerrymandered maps, and several states havesince 2010. But, even if Republicans only hold a 3- or 4-point advantage in 2022, that’s still a significant skew that could potentially allow the GOP to capture the House without winning the popular vote.
Beyond gerrymandering, Manchin also supports several fairly modest proposals that are likely to make it easier to vote in many states. He would allow voters who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day to still cast a ballot, although these voters might not be allowed to vote in certain local elections. And he would require at least 15 consecutive days of early voting in federal elections.
Manchin also supports the, which requires certain groups to disclose their election-related spending, and the , which imposes disclosure requirements on online ads.
He would also make some fairly significant changes to the John Lewis Act, which seeks to restore a practice known as “.”
Preclearance blocked any new election rule enacted by a state and local government with a history of racist election practices, until that law was approved by either a federal court in Washington or the Department of Justice. The Supreme Court effectively halted preclearance in its 5-4 decision in(2013).
The DOJ has a plan to protect voting rights. It might not be enough.
Merrick Garland’s speech is a cry for congressional action.In a speech on Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the DOJ plan to protect voting rights and announced that the department’s Civil Rights Division would begin staffing up to aid enforcement efforts.
Last month, Manchin seemed to propose, but that idea did not make the senator’s most recent list of reforms. Instead, Manchin now seems to endorse most of the , which would impose preclearance on jurisdictions that have committed “15 or more voting rights violations ... during the previous 25 calendar years” or on jurisdictions with 10 or more violations, “at least one of which was committed by the State itself.”
But Manchin also would weaken a few provisions of the John Lewis Act. He would “decrease the Attorney General’s authority to deem a state or locality’s actions a voting rights violation,” suggesting that courts and not the Justice Department would play an enhanced role in determining which states are subject to preclearance.
He also wouldn’t allow— negotiated settlements between a plaintiff and a jurisdiction accused of a voting rights violations — to count toward the violations that could subject a new jurisdiction to preclearance. Manchin says he’s afraid that “savvy lawyers could go into cash strapped localities” and file suits that those localities can’t afford to defend. Then use the resulting lawsuit settlements to “rack up voting rights violations to get a locality or state into preclearance.”
Additionally, Manchin raises a few other vague concerns, such as “there needs to be clarity on how states or localities exist out of preclearance.” It’s likely that Manchin’s version of the John Lewis Act would be substantially weaker than the Democratic leadership’s proposal. Nevertheless, because the status quo is Shelby County, which struck down preclearance, Manchin’s proposal would revive a potent tool that has historically been.
McConnell Has Just One Play Against Joe Manchin’s Voting Rights Compromise
The question is if the trick will keep working.It’s not that complicated, even if it has been amazingly successful. But it’s also something that hasn’t really been tested, and that is the part that could be about to change. On Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) announced that he could be convinced to vote on Congressional Democrats’ top priorities on voting rights, something he’s previously resisted, and he even offered a list of specific elements he wants to see as part of a compromise on the sprawling “For the People Act,” or S1.
What’s in it for Republicans?
Manchin has suggested that any voting rights reforms, and he’s resisted filibuster reform in the past. So even Manchin’s somewhat watered-down voting rights proposals face a tough road in the Senate unless he’s willing to .
That said, Manchin’s proposal does include a few ideas that may prove enticing to some GOP senators.
He would impose a nationwide voter ID requirement — meaning that voters would be required to show some form of identification before casting a ballot. Such laws enjoy broad support from Republicans, who often claim that they are necessary to combat voter fraud.
In reality, such fraud is, and many voting rights advocates fear that voter ID prevents left-leaning groups, such as , from casting a ballot because these groups are less likely to have ID.
New research, however, suggests that voter ID laws— that is, they neither prevent fraud nor do much to disenfranchise voters. And Manchin also proposes a fairly permissive form of voter ID. While some states have “strict” voter ID laws that require voters to show specific forms of photo identification, Manchin would permit voters to cast a ballot if they show alternative forms of ID, such as a utility bill with their name and address on it.
Indeed, depending on how the legislation is eventually drafted, Manchin’s voter ID proposal could potentially make it easier to vote in states with strict laws. Congress has the power to. So, if Congress passes a national law allowing voters to use alternative forms of ID like a utility bill, it could write that law to preempt stricter state laws.
The most worrisome aspect of Manchin’s proposal is probably the suggestion that states should be allowed to purge their voting rolls. Such purges are a fraught topic, because of concerns that states will erroneously (or intentionally) deregister voters who are still eligible to vote where they registered. In 2000, for example, the state of Florida conducted athat may have changed the result of that year’s presidential election — according to official tallies, George W. Bush won the state by only 537 votes.
In any event, Manchin’s proposal on voter purges is quite vague — he says that he would “allow for maintenance of voter rolls by utilizing information derived from state and federal documents” — so it’s hard to know whether a more fleshed-out proposal will be deeply alarming or largely benign until Manchin provides more specifics.
Yet, even if some of these ideas do appeal to Republicans, the path to 10 GOP votes seems incredibly steep. And it’s not hard to see why: while it’s a step down from the For the People Act, the totality of Manchin’s proposal is still an enormous win for voting rights, so much so that it would be easy to see why a GOP that haswould reject it out of hand.
Now that Manchin has made his affirmative demands on voting rights explicit, the big question is: What is he willing to do to make sure the proposals he champions become law?
Voting rights bill poised for Senate action while Republicans remain opposed, Manchin offers compromise .
The For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights bill, faces stiff opposition from Republicans.Democrats hailed the For the People Act – a sweeping bill aimed at protecting voters' rights, increasing election security and mandating independent redistricting, among other provisions – as a bold countermeasure to restrictive voting measures pursued in states. Republicans slammed the legislation as overreaching, arguing elections should be left to the states, not the federal government.