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President Manchin's Voting Rights Bill Isn't As Bad As His Infrastructure Bill



First of all, Manchin's voting rights compromise-- is just a compromise between the 49 Democrats who are, at least on paper, co-sponsoring it and Manchin. Manchin isn't likely to be able to bring even one Republican on board-- and even if he talks Collins and Murkowski into it-- certainly not the 10 it would require to get through McConnell's already-announced Jim Crow filibuster.


In the video (above) from CNN International this morning, Stacey Abrams has given the Manchin "compromise" the thumbs up-- and she explained why. She called it "a first and important step in preserving our democracy" and says she sees it as creating a level playing field ensuring that every American has improved access to the right to vote.


Since the House-passed full version cannot pass the Senate without Manchin's buy-in-- and since he has already announced he will vote against it-- this proposal of his is all we can hope for. And, unlike the conservative infrastructure proposal he's peddling, it isn't bad. It's not as good as what we would have liked to have seen, but it's absolutely a step in the right direction-- and with no Republicans willing to come along, it could help persuade Manchin to agree to reforming the filibuster, if only to protect democracy.


Writing for Vox this morning, Ian Millhiser noted that Manchin's proposal draws from the For the People Act as well as from a companion voting rights bill known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which he wants to water down a bit. Manchin's plan does include banning partisan gerrymandering, probably enough to get every Democrat on board and turn every Republican vehemently against it.


Millhiser wrote that the most significant proposal on Manchin's list is just that-- "a ban on partisan gerrymandering, at least at the congressional level. States are required to redraw their legislative maps every 10 years to 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 control important high-population states, such as Texas and Florida, and in part because many large blue states, such as California, use independent redistricting commissions to draw legislative lines."


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 DISCLOSE Act, which requires certain groups to disclose their election-related spending, and the Honest Ads Act, 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.”
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 Shelby County v. Holder (2013).
Last month, Manchin seemed to propose extending this preclearance regime to all 50 states, but that idea did not make the senator’s most recent list of reforms. Instead, Manchin now seems to endorse most of the John Lewis Act, 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 consent decrees-- negotiated settlements between a plaintiff and a jurisdiction accused of 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 very successful in protecting voting rights.

Look at the West Virgina polling for the For the People Act. Manchin understands what 79-15% amounts to.