Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia declared Sunday he will oppose his party’s legislation to federalize how elections are conducted, dealing a severe blow to Democratic passage in the evenly divided Senate.
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he explains his reasons for not voting for the deeply partisan “sweeping election reform bill” and he criticizes his party for proposing to eliminate the filibuster in order to get the bill through with zero Republican support.
He says, “The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen…They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”
He noted that during his time as West Virginia’s Secretary of State, he was determined to protect voting rights and ensure fair, accessible and secure elections. “Not to benefit my party but all the people of West Virginia. For example, as secretary of state I took specific actions to establish early voting for the first time in West Virginia in order to provide expanded options for those whose work or family schedule made it difficult for them to vote on Election Day. Throughout my tenure in politics, I have been guided by this simple philosophy — our party labels can’t prevent us from doing what is right.”
He laments the fact that the debate over our voting rights has become “overtly politicized,” and is not about finding common ground, but “seeking partisan advantage.” “Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.”
Manchin states that congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both parties coming together or “we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.”
The senator mentions the fact that in 2017, when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress, President Donald Trump urged Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster, at which time 33 Senate Democrats penned a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell warning of the perils of doing so.
Manchin said, “It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely. Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy. The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality.”
He admits that the process can be frustrating and slow and will lead to compromises which are not always ideal, but states the alternative is an America where one party can dictate and demand everything, getting everything it wants, adding, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.”
“The truth is there is a better way – if we seek to find it together.”