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Joe Manchin, whose refusal to vote in favor of the For The People voting rights act last week killed the bill, has an unlikely ally in his proposed changes. Stacey Abrams, the voting rights powerhouse from Georgia, confirmed her support for parts of Manchin’s suggested modifications to the bill.
Among Senator Manchin’s proposed changes to the bill are creating a federal holiday for voting day, allowing for over two weeks of early voting, instituting a voter ID law that allows for utility bills as a form of identification, and a ban on gerrymandering. Senator Manchin made his proposal on Wednesday, June 16.
“What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography,” Ms. Abrams confirmed in an interview with CNN, “and those provisions that he’s 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 vote despite the onslaught of state legislation seeking to restrict access to the right to vote.”
Ms. Abrams surprises media with support for Manchin’s compromise on voting rights
Ms. Abrams, an organizer and activist who focuses on voting rights for marginalized communities and people of color, is a surprising supporter of Mr. Manchin’s suggestions. While making election day a holiday has been proposed many times to no avail, requiring identification to vote is a hotly contested topic across the country.
Mandating voter identification places a burden on those who do not have access to a state’s department of motor vehicles, as well as those who do not have utilities in their name. The American Civil Liberties Union notes that 11% of citizens do not have identification, and that obtaining a driver’s license or other form of state identification costs money and time, reduces voter accessibility, and unfairly targets people from underserved communities.
Senator Manchin’s refusal to support the For The People voting rights bill hinged on a lack of bipartisan support. He also noted that he does not support Democrats using the filibuster to pass legislation. Senator Manchin’s bill is a modified version of another voter rights bill, the Senator John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named in honor of the long-time civil rights activist who died last year.
Ms. Abrams, who promotes extended voting rights rather than restricting them, recently gave an interview in which she said voting rights “is no longer a question of partisanship. It is not a question of which party is electing their leaders. It’s a question of citizenship, who has the right to be heard in our nation.”
While Senator Manchin’s proposed changes do not include some of the sweeping voting rights changes proposed by Senate Democrats, it is likely to have some bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. Whether that support will be enough to turn the bill into law remains to be seen.