Or if you’re The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos and Michael Wines, who decided to throw a whole bunch of editorializing into their supposed “news” reporting, the bill is “a sweeping liberal wish list that includes restoring voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, making it easier to register and vote, reining in undisclosed campaign donations, securing elections against cyberattacks and ending the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.” They could have just quoted Mitch McConnell there and saved themselves the professional embarrassment. Because all those things are part of the bill, yes, but they are all core democratic principles, with a small “d.” They’re also really popular and—yes—get bipartisan support among actual voters.
Historian Kathleen Frydl breaks it down in a tweet thread. Pew polling, she points out, has found “seven-in-ten (69%) Americans favored granting voting access to those convicted of felonies after they serve their sentences. Though majorities in both parties backed this, Democrats (82%) were far more likely than Republicans (55%) to support [it].” Further findings from late 2018 show 64% overall support for same-day voter registration and 65% support automatic voter registration for eligible citizens with 87% saying voter registrations should be updated automatically for voters who have moved house. Early and no-excuse absentee voting get 71% support, even 57% from Republicans.
But for the NYT this is all a “messaging” bill, “a statement of Democratic values during the last Congress,” that is causing—of course—disarray among Democrats who have to “transform” it “into a viable piece of legislation.” There is one Democrat who is really causing trouble. That’s Sen. Joe Manchin, who has gone so far as to give credence to the Big Lie from Donald Trump and Republicans that the 2020 election wasn’t valid.
He says that he will only support legislation that is bipartisan because that’s what’s essential “to restore faith and trust in our democracy.” He points to “American’s declining trust in government and each other” and says that the only way to fix that is to “transcend partisanship.” That’s Manchin saying that Republican lies about voter and elections fraud are valid. That’s Manchin saying that the only way to fix democracy is to let Republicans—who want to make sure to the largest extent possible that the people who aren’t voting for them don’t get to vote at all—have veto power in the effort.
Manchin insists that some of the minor provisions of S.1 could get “bipartisan” support, and says those are the ones he’d agree to, but he’s listing things that Republicans have routinely rejected, like a mandated 15 days of early voting. He ignores most of the major and critical provisions to restore democracy including gerrymandering reform, voter registration expansion and improvements, vote-by-mail access, voter purge prevention—all the things that Republicans have attacked in their voter suppression efforts.
Despite the best efforts of the NYT to inflate Manchin’s opposition into a complete collapse of the bill in the Senate, Democrats there are going forward on S.1. “Right now, my focus is to keep this bill together as one package and get it through the committee,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the Rules Committee, told the Times. It has support of voting rights and good government advocates, too.
“There is baseline commitment to keeping this bill together and passing it as it is,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21 and a long-time champion of campaign finance and elections reforms. “With 49 co-sponsors of this bill, it’s not a situation where one should be negotiating against themselves to satisfy the desires of opponents. We strongly support adopting this bill as whole, enacting it as whole and getting it signed into law as whole.”
It’s 49 to 1 for Joe Manchin, unless he decides to join the white supremacists across the aisle. At some point. The largest parts of this bill have to pass or the “faith and trust in the government” that Manchin says he holds so dear will be gone forever.