Manchin privately strategizes with GOP on his party’s stalled elections bill

By | June 16, 2021

As progressives hammer Sen. Joe Manchin for opposing Democrats’ signature ethics and election reform bill, the West Virginian is busy working behind the scenes.

Manchin organized a Zoom meeting on Monday with civil rights groups and a handful of Republican senators to discuss his party’s proposals on voting rights and policing, both of which are currently stuck in the upper chamber as Democrats search for the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The West Virginia senator organized the Monday meeting after a similar chat with leaders of national civil rights organizations one week prior. With no change to the legislative filibuster on the horizon, Manchin and the groups know 10 Republican senators will be needed to support both legislation that would reauthorize key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and certain provisions of Democrats’ expansive elections bill.

Manchin, who announced opposition to Democrats’ sweeping elections bill earlier this month, is not against everything in the bill. Manchin is telling colleagues that he supports expanded early voting and a ban on partisan gerrymandering, according to a source familiar with information he is circulating. But he also wants new voter ID requirements and wants more flexibility for state officials to remove voters from voter rolls, which run counter to the design of the voting rights bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to put on the floor next week.

Manchin also opposes no-excuse absentee voting and has indicated discomfort with public financing of elections, two other parts of the broader bill dubbed “S. 1.” And he’s telling colleagues he still thinks he can get Republican support.

According to a memo from Manchin, obtained by POLITICO, a compromise would include making election day a public holiday, mandating 15 consecutive days of early voting, allowing for automatic registration through the DMV with the ability to opt out, and requiring voter ID with alternatives like utility bills.

Republicans who joined the meeting include Sens. Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Tim Scott, according to senators and sources familiar with the meeting. In addition, Manchin invited Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

“I did it because I was asked by Sen. Manchin,” Graham said. “We have differences on [S. 1], but I’d like to make voting easier. Maybe have some uniform standards on how you do mail-in balloting. There might be some things we can do … He’s always trying to find a way forward on stuff.”