Abrams: I would ‘absolutely’ back Manchin’s voting rights compromise

Stacey Abrams on Thursday threw her support behind Sen. Joe Manchin’s proposed revisions to congressional Democrats’ expansive election and ethics reform bill, conferring him the endorsement of one of the nation’s premier voting rights activists.

In an interview on CNN, Abrams — a former Democratic nominee for Georgia governor who founded an organization to fight voter suppression — said she “absolutely” could support the changes to the For the People Act that Manchin (D-W.Va.) outlined in a memo circulated among colleagues on Wednesday.

“What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography,” Abrams said.

Abrams went on to describe the tenets of Manchin’s proposal as “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.”

The apparent boost for Manchin’s compromise solution comes after he announced last week that he would not support Democrats’ election reform bill — which party leaders have given the symbolically significant titles “S.1” in the Senate and “H.R. 1” in the House — in its current form.

Although Manchin favors the bill’s expansion of early voting and ban on partisan gerrymandering, his memo on Wednesday detailed federally-mandated voter ID requirements and greater flexibility for state officials to remove voters from voter rolls.

Roughly a dozen states currently do not require ID for most voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with a handful more allowing for a sworn statement to serve as a substitute. Manchin’s proposal suggests “allowable alternatives” be accepted in lieu of ID, specifically naming utility bills, but does not go into greater detail.

Manchin also proposed making Election Day a public holiday, mandating 15 consecutive days of early voting and allowing for automatic registration through the DMV with the ability to opt out. His proposal does not mandate no-excuse absentee voting, which allows voters to vote via the mail regardless of age, disability status or location on Election Day — something that is included in H.R. 1.

On Thursday, Abrams called the compromise laid out by Manchin a “first and important step to preserving our democracy” in the face of several Republican election laws enacted on the state level, which critics say restrict voting access and contribute to disenfranchisement.

“Those should be untenable to any American,” Abrams said. “And if Joe Manchin and the U.S. senators who support this legislation are willing to come together on a compromise, then we will make progress. We will help to continue to ensure access to our democracy for as many Americans as possible. And that is always a native good.”

Following her interview, an email from Fair Fight — the group she leads — said Manchin’s proposal was a first, but not final, step.

“This compromise proposal is a positive building block — but it doesn’t do enough to protect voters and elections workers who are under unprecedented attack, it doesn’t support voting by mail, adequate polling location access and more,” the email sent to allied groups and obtained by POLITICO reads. “So it’s a building block to getting good done, but we must keep the pressure on.”

Advocacy groups who have pushed for federal Democrats’ sweeping elections package have also cautiously embraced Manchin’s proposals as a positive sign for the future of the bill.

“I think that it’s a very good sign that Joe Manchin has put forward a proposal,” said Wendy Weiser, the vice president of democracy at the Brennan Center, the liberal-leaning think tank that has been one of the primary advocates of the bill. “It’s important that he, as he has previously said, recognizes that inaction is not an option.”

However, Manchin’s proposal still has little chance of passing the Senate, where he would need the votes of at least 10 Republicans to send the measure to President Joe Biden’s desk. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly nixed the idea of any significant number of Republicans supporting Manchin’s proposal on Thursday. “All Republicans, I think, will oppose that, as well, if that were to be surfaced on the floor,” he said.

Other conservative groups echoed McConnell.

“I’ll be candid, I like a couple of the provisions,” said Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project, which is part of the constellation of conservative groups whipping against H.R. 1. “But even though I might like the idea of a voter ID requirement, I don’t think it’s Congress’ business to impose it.” Snead compared Manchin’s proposals to Georgia’s current voter laws.

Manchin has repeatedly said he opposes ending the legislative filibuster, which would allow Democrats to pass his compromise bill and several other planks of the party’s agenda with a simple majority.

“He’s been talking with a range of Democrats. I hope he’s talking with a range of Republicans, because he is the one who set the goalposts at a bipartisan bill,” said Trevor Potter, a former Republican FEC commissioner who now leads the Campaign Legal Center, which is supportive of H.R. 1. “And the question is, which Republicans is he working with, and which Republicans will sign on to this agenda?”

Source: Politico

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