Sen. Manchin on Election Reform Bill S. 1: ‘We Can’t Afford Any More Division’

March 24, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told reporters on Wednesday that the S. 1 election reform bill, the Senate version of H.R. 1, presently covers too many areas. He suggested it would get broader support if it was focused on only voting rights, specifically making voting more secure and accessible.

“I think there’s so much good in there and so many things, I think all of us should be able to be united around voting rights, but it should be limited to the voting rights and not exclusively to so many other areas,” Manchin said.

On March 3, the House passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 220 to 210, a sweeping government and elections reform bill that the Senate will now consider.

Some of the many provisions in S. 1 (pdf) include requiring that states implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, restoring the ability of felons to vote, no-fault absentee balloting, and 15 days of early voting.

The legislation would also require states to automatically register all adults from state and national databases, regardless of citizenship status, end voter ID requirements, and mandate that states accept absentee ballots up to 10 days after an election. The bill also requires reform to campaign finance law and the establishment of redistricting commissions in each state.

Manchin said an election reform bill should have broad bipartisan support because voting rights are not a partisan issue. He said many Republicans in the last election felt the voting process was not fair and some even breached the U.S. Capitol because of the issue.

“Yeah, we can’t afford any more division, especially on voting rights … and now we’re going to have a piece of legislation that might divide us even further on a partisan basis, that shouldn’t happen because there’s too much good in here,” said Manchin.

Former President Trump and many Republicans reported irregularities in the voting process during the 2020 presidential election and lawyers for Trump filed numerous legal actions to try to challenge the results in swing states that had prolonged counting or disputed results. As a result, Republicans are trying to enact laws they think will make elections more secure at the state level.

Congressional Republicans have opposed the Democrat’s legislation, which they say will make elections less secure and chaotic and give too much power to the federal government to control election standards, power the states should have.

House Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the bill a power grab during a committee meeting on March 1.

Epoch Times Photo
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) during a hearing in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Dec. 18, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Cole said, “This is a bill is about preserving the present Democratic majority. It is a bill by the majority, for the majority, and is intended to entrench the majority in power for years to come.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) took to Twitter on Wednesday to voice his concerns about S. 1. “Americans have to show ID for common activities every day. And the American people overwhelmingly support states right to ask for identification to vote. But S. 1 would ban this sensible requirement,” wrote Wicker.

Democrats have called efforts by state legislatures trying to enact election laws to require voter ID and restrict mail-in ballots voter suppression. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a lead sponsor of H.R. 1, called Republican states’ efforts “anti-democratic.”

“There’s an explosion of Republican activity, governors, and legislatures across the country, working to pass bills to keep people from voting,” said Merkley. “To me, this is entirely anti-democratic.”

Manchin made it clear that a voting rights bill passed in the Senate should have broad bipartisan support, which it does not so far. “I think voting rights is something we should all be protecting and making sure no one’s oppressed, and everyone has the opportunity,” he said.