As Democrats play a game of back-and-forth with regard to voting rights legislation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signaled that members of his own party are still not open to a federal government overhaul of the election system, even if it is packaged as a compromise.
At a press conference on Thursday, McConnell said that Republicans would not back a version potentially proposed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV).
McConnell told members of the media, “You all have noticed that there’s now a debate among Democrats over a revised version produced by one of the Democrats yesterday, which has been endorsed by Stacey Abrams.”
He added, “I would make this observation about the revised version. It still turns the federal election commission from a judge into a prosecutor … and, in what is an extraordinarily dubious constitutionality, would remove redistricting from state legislatures and hand it over to computers. Equally unacceptable. Totally inappropriate.”
McConnell noted, “All Republicans, I think, will oppose that, as well, if that were to be what surfaced on the floor,” adding that isn’t what they anticipate will happen.
According to a draft of a memo from Manchin’s office as released by The Washington Post on Thursday, Manchin would support making Election Day a public holiday. He would also support actions such as “Mandat[ing] at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections (include 2 weekends),” and “Requir[ing] voter ID with allowable alternatives (utility bill, etc.) to prove identity to vote.” His list of supported updates included: “Allow for maintenance of voter rolls by utilizing information derived from state and federal documents,” something that Democrats have pushed back against in the past, and “Ban partisan gerrymandering and use computer models.”
As The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, two Democratic aides with knowledge of Manchin’s views told the outlet that “he has also signaled to colleagues that he opposes a public financing system for congressional elections that has emerged as one of the most controversial parts of the For the People Act. The aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe Manchin’s private communications with other lawmakers.”
Manchin told the press on Wednesday, “I’ve been sharing everything that I support and things I can support and vote with and things that I think is in the bill that doesn’t need to be in the bill, that doesn’t really interact with what we’re doing in West Virginia,” adding, “We’ll have to see what changes are made.”
“These conversations are ongoing, and we’re going to come to an agreement, and we’re going to move this forward,” one Democratic aide told the Post.
Manchin came out against the original version of the “For The People Act.” It would need 60 votes to pass the Senate to get past a specific GOP filibuster, per Vox. As reported by The Hill, Manchin is also against the reformed version of the bill that Democrats are expected to bring next week.
Manchin explained his position on the original bill in a piece earlier this month, writing, “congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.”
As McConnell noted, Manchin’s version was endorsed by failed gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams. “Absolutely,” Abrams said Thursday when CNN’s John Berman asked her if she could support Manchin’s proposals. “What Senator Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography,” she said, per Vanity Fair.
“Those provisions that he is setting forth are strong ones that will create a level playing field, will create standards that do not vary from state to state, and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to the right to vote despite the onslaught of state legislation seeking to restrict access to the right to vote,” Abrams added, claiming that “no one has ever objected to having to prove who you are to vote.” She said that the “problematic” situations are “the type of restrictive I.D. that we’ve seen pop up.” She then plugged her recent book.
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