Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he will vote against For the People Act, a sweeping election reform bill pushed by his Democratic colleagues that’s also known as S. 1 in the Senate, saying forcing it through via the reconciliation process will further deepen divisions.
“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” he wrote in home-state newspaper The Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Manchin also reaffirmed that he won’t vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.
He criticized Democrats and Republicans for politicizing election reform to seek partisan advantage and urged both sides to work together, while suggesting that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is a good starting point to gain bipartisan support for election reform.
The act would federalize components of the election system, eliminating nearly all requirements for photo identification, require states to offer 15 days of early voting, allow “no-excuse” absentee balloting, require states to implement a system of automatic voter registration, and allow same-day registration on any day voting is allowed.
Manchin also expressed concern over the trend of vying for absolute power over cooperation inside the Beltway.
“It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he wrote. “Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely.”
After a contentious 2020 election, a number of Republican-led states have enacted or proposed various measures that seek to guarantee election integrity, such as restricting mail-in voting and bolstering ID requirements. Meanwhile, Democrats are aggressively attempting to federally codify some emergency voting rights and oversight procedures that were implemented due to COVID-19 ahead of the presidential election through the For the People Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Democratic colleagues in a memorandum that he will force a Senate vote on the sweeping election reform bill “that is essential to defending our democracy, reducing the influence of dark money and powerful special interests, and stopping the wave of Republican voter suppression happening in states across the country.”
The bill is expected to get little, if any, support from the Republican side.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised to block the bill, which he characterizes as undue government overreach into state election systems. He said no GOP senators support it.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) has described the bill as “a massive federal takeover of elections.”
Manchin’s objection will dim Democrats’ hope of passing it in the Senate, which is split 50–50.
Schumer’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
The House approved its version of the For the People Act—H.R. 1—in March. All Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), voted against the bill.
Critics have promised to bring a flood of lawsuits if the legislation is approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“There are a number of constitutional infirmities and deficiencies that stem from its treatment of presidential and congressional elections identically, even though Congress has vastly reduced powers to regulate presidential elections under the Constitution,” Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, told reporters.
The Associated Press contributed to the report.