Senate Democrats Get Manchin on Board With New Election Overhaul Bill

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
September 14, 2021 Updated: September 14, 2021

Democrats in the Senate have won the approval of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for a measure that would dramatically overhaul elections.

The new legislation combines elements of an election reform bill proposed by Manchin earlier this year with provisions from the “For the People Act,” also known as S.1, that Senate Republicans blocked in June.

The full text of the new bill, dubbed the “Freedom to Vote Act,” hasn’t yet been released. Democrats described it as focusing on guaranteeing voter access, election integrity, and civic participation.

Elements include automatic voter registration, making Election Day a public holiday, requiring states to use voting systems with paper ballots, and implementing changes to redistricting that the senators say would “prevent partisan manipulation” of the process.

“With the Freedom to Vote Act, the entire voting rights working group, including Senators Manchin and Merkley, is united behind legislation that will set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what ZIP code they live in,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a statement.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our Democracy and the Freedom to Vote Act is a step in the right direction towards protecting that right for every American. As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore peoples’ faith in our Democracy, and I believe that the commonsense provisions in this bill—like flexible voter ID requirements—will do just that,” Manchin added.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Angus King (I-Maine) are the other co-sponsors of the bill.

The group was put together by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Calif.), who was said to have led the effort to reach a compromise on a new election overhaul bill.

Even in cases in which Democrats can avoid the filibuster, they must get the entire caucus on board.

The Senate is divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats or nominal independents who regularly vote with Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, has the ability to cast tie-breaking votes in her capacity as president of the Senate.

The filibuster, though, appears to prevent passage of the new act. The filibuster requires 60 votes to trigger debate on a bill before a final vote is held.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have long opposed alterations to the filibuster, as have Republicans.

Asked how the new bill would pass, Manchin told CNN that he plans to get 10 Republicans on board.

“I’m talking to reasonable Republicans and friends of mine who understand we need guardrails,” Manchin said.

The top Republican in the Senate, though, panned the efforts to change how elections are run.

“There is no reason for the federal government to take over how we conduct elections. It is a solution in search of a problem and we will not be supporting that,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in Washington.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.