Sen. Joe Manchin Releases 'Compromise' Proposal On Voting Rights

A week after saying he opposed the For the People Act, the West Virginia Democrat revealed what parts of the bill he would support.
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) revealed Wednesday which provisions he would support in the For the People Act, a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms.

The list Manchin presented as a “For the People Act Compromise” comes just over a week after he declared his opposition to the bill in an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and one week ahead of a planned Senate floor vote on the bill. The bill already passed the House on a near party-line vote, with just one Democratic lawmaker voting against.

Manchin is the sole Democrat opposed to the For the People Act in the closely divided Senate, giving him significant leverage in negotiating a bill that’s considered the party’s top legislative priority. With the thinnest of possible majorities, Democrats need his support for the bill to pass. Even then, his currently stated opposition to changing the Senate’s filibuster would make it impossible to pass without the support of 10 Republicans.

Among the voting rights provisions included in Manchin’s proposal are expanding early voting, mandating automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, requiring states to notify voters about polling place changes at least seven days ahead of time, and making sure provisional ballots are counted even if they were filed at the wrong precinct, among other things.

The campaign finance reforms Manchin supports include the disclosure of “dark money,” tightening the ban on coordination between candidates and super PACs, requiring tech platforms to disclose political advertising, and a mandate for campaigns to disclose any contacts with foreign actors. He also supports a provision to ban partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and ethics provisions to strengthen foreign lobbying enforcement and tighten conflict of interest rules, including requiring that presidents and vice presidents divest from any financial investments that could pose a conflict of interest after taking office.

These provisions are only a handful of those in the version of the For the People Act currently before the Senate. There were several Manchin did not list in his proposal, though he did not indicate whether he opposes them. These include mandates that states allow no-excuse absentee voting, same-day voter registration, expansions of voting by mail such as ballot drop box requirements, the restoration of voting rights to people convicted of felonies, voluntary public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the Federal Election Commission, mandating a paper ballot record trail, a significant number of other lobbying and ethics reforms, and an effective rollback of state voter identification laws that would allow voters to bypass ID requirements if they attest to their identity under penalty of perjury, among other things.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is the lone Democratic senator who does not support the party's top legislative priority, a package of voting, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is the lone Democratic senator who does not support the party's top legislative priority, a package of voting, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The one area where Manchin wants to add a new provision that Democrats may oppose is on voter identification. He wants a national voter ID mandate, although one that would allow voters to use many different kinds of identification including a utility bill. Such a provision could roll back some of the strictest state voter ID laws that allow only a few types of identification for voting.

Though he pitched it as a “compromise,” it’s unclear whether Manchin’s proposal will convince at least 10 Republicans to join Democrats in passing a bill to overhaul the nation’s voting systems.

Republicans oppose imposing broad federal standards on voting. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has emphatically said that no Republican senator supports the Democrats’ sweeping voting rights legislation. GOP lawmakers have also defended state-level changes restricting access to the ballot.

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee, said he was unlikely to support Manchin’s proposed list of voting reforms on the grounds that it would be “a federal takeover of elections.”

“We’re better off to leave that to the states,” Blunt told HuffPost.

Manchin’s position means Democrats will also have to give a little and accept changes to their sweeping voting and ethics package for it to become law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues in a letter earlier this week that nothing less than the original For the People Act will do. However, negotiations have been ongoing with Manchin, Democratic Party leadership and all of the bill’s principal sponsors over how to gain his support for the bill.

“There’ll be some give and take. I’m open to those conversations,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said.

The debate over voting rights will come to a head next week when the Senate holds a vote on the bill. Democratic leaders have not said what kind of changes, if any, they’ll make to the bill. But they’ll need Manchin’s support to advance anything to the floor, as the committee vote on the bill deadlocked 9-9 on a party-line vote.

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