Wild Idea: Stop Voter Suppression Even If It Means Putting Joe Manchin's Name On The Bill
After weeks of precarious negotiations, there's finally a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate (until, like, someone sneezes). So maybe it's time for the Senate to take another whack at protecting voting rights, too, since the survival of our Republic really does depend on making sure free and fair elections continue.
Former Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat who lost in 2020 to a plug-stupid sportsball coach whose name sounds like a child's bath toy, has what sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea to protect voting rights: Democrats should tweak Joe Manchin's voting proposal a bit and try again. And if there aren't 10 Republicans to vote for it, which there probably won't be, then Dems should jump on Rep. Jim Clyburn's suggestion and modify the filibuster just a tiny bit to allow bills protecting the right to vote to pass with a simple majority.
Just to help Joe Manchin realize that he could make or break constitutional democracy in this country, Jones suggests the bill be called "Manchin Plus."
We could get behind that, as long as "Manchin Plus" isn't another damn streaming service (it would show programs that American really like, but with 30 percent cut out in a hopeless attempt to please Republicans).
Jones sets out his idea in a USA Today Op-Ed, noting that something has to be done to stop Republican-controlled state legislatures from crapping on voting rights through measures that flat out aim at suppressing the votes of people of color, and which
permit state legislatures to reject voters' choices, shift control over election processes away from qualified administrators and into the hands of partisan legislators who have a stake in the outcome, and penalize election workers who are just trying to do their jobs.
Just to review, the Manchin proposal keeps several key parts of the For the People Act, like making Election Day a holiday, setting a minimum of 15 days of early voting, guaranteeing no-excuse absentee voting (which would be postage-free, too), instituting automatic voter registration through the DMV (with an opt-out if people want) and most important of all, eliminating partisan gerrymandering by having congressional districts drawn by nonpartisan commissions.
In addition, to let Republicans feel studly, it would allow for some form of voter ID, with uniform national standards for what counts as an ID, to eliminate nonsense like bans on university student IDs, and other provisions to make sure poor, minority, and elderly voters aren't disenfranchised. That would mean, among other things, no more of that North Dakota bullshit requiring IDs with a street address, when homes on many Native American reservations don't have numbered street addresses.
To the Manchin plan, Jones would add a few smallish provisions:
- Guaranteed same-day voter registration, in case people are incorrectly removed from voter rolls
- Mandatory voter-verified paper ballots
- Protections for voters with disabilities (but not the bullshit pretexts that Georgia used to close polling places in mostly-Black precincts because they were supposedly not ADA-compliant)
- "robust post-election audits" so everyone can see elections are honest
And one absolutely vital provision, too:
A new federal law should also eliminate the discretion of election personnel to discard validly cast ballots and prohibit partisan actors from removing election workers without cause.
Absofuckinglutely. Provisions like that go straight past voter suppression and right into election nullification. No amount of voter registration or Get Out the Vote can overcome a law like Georgia's that allows the state to just throw out election results it doesn't like — or to install elections officials who see to it that Republicans will win.
This week, Republicans in Georgia are moving to take over the elections process in Fulton County, the state's most populous county, where Joe Biden received nearly 73 percent of the 2020 vote. The GOP legislators calling for the move insist they simply want to ensure the "integrity" of elections in Fulton, because they can't just come out and openly say they want to prevent votes by people of color from counting.
in his op-ed, Jones notes that until fairly recently, it was common for both Republicans and Democrats to support fair national voting standards, as seen in the overwhelming votes to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act decade after decade. Thinking of the good old days of 2006, the last time the VRA was reauthorized before the Supreme Court gutted it in 2013, Jones says, "Regrettably, far too few of my Republican Senate colleagues have co-sponsored pro-voter legislation in recent years."
Yes, yes, that's a nice gesture toward bipartisanship and comity, but it soft-pedals the reality of the GOP's rejection of democracy. Jones sounds too much like he's just nostalgic that men's hats fell out of style.
For the little it's worth, he wastes a paragraph appealing to Senate Republicans' sense of civic duty, imploring them to "act in the best interests of an American democracy under assault" at the state level. Again, that seems a useless gesture toward Republicans who have already gone on record saying that allowing all Americans' votes to count amounts to a Democratic power grab.
But if Senate Republicans won't get on board with protecting all voters' rights, which duh, they won't, Jones says "the stakes are too high to let partisanship doom this effort." So there's no reason to allow the GOP minority to crush American democracy:
I am a strong proponent of bipartisanship, but I am a stronger proponent of democracy. Congress must be the backstop for the attacks on democracy and the right to vote. If Republicans remain uniformly opposed to policies that strengthen our democracy, Democratic senators, including my friend Joe Manchin, must do what is necessary to enact these critical protections: Institute a filibuster exception for voting-rights legislation before the August recess, so a Manchin Plus package can become federal law.
Again, that's the solution advocated by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), who has said that Joe Biden should "pick up the phone and tell Joe Manchin, 'Hey, we should do a carve out.'" Leave the legislative filibuster in place for other matters (even if it's a stupid rule), but for fuckssake don't let it stand in the way of preserving the one thing that makes America a multiracial democracy.
We have no idea whether Joe Manchin is at all inclined to listen to Jones, to Clyburn, or to Biden. But there's something deeply wrong in a system where a single senator can decide whether millions of people can exercise the most fundamental American right there is.
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