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Stacey Abrams says she supports Manchin's voting rights compromise

·Senior Writer
·4 min read
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Activist and former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams said she “absolutely” could support Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-W.Va., compromise proposal on voting rights.

“What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography,” the Georgia Democrat said Thursday during an interview with CNN, “and those provisions that he’s setting forth are strong ones that will create a level playing field, will create standards that do not vary from state to state and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to vote despite the onslaught of state legislation seeking to restrict access to the right to vote.”

Manchin’s office circulated a three-page memo outlining his voting rights proposal after writing earlier this month that he didn’t support the For the People Act, a sweeping piece of legislation on voting, elections and campaign finance that passed the House in March. The West Virginian said he thinks a voting rights bill passed along party lines would “destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.”

In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they wait for former President Barack Obama to arrive and speak at a rally as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Stacey Abrams. (Brynn Anderson/AP, File)

Key provisions in Manchin’s proposal include mandating an early voting period and eliminating partisan gerrymandering in an attempt to get fair legislative maps, in addition to making Election Day a federal holiday and increasing access to absentee balloting. However, Manchin’s proposal also backed a couple of provisions typically opposed by Democrats, including increased voter ID requirements and allowing local election officials to purge voting rolls.

When asked about the voter ID provision, Abrams said, “That’s one of the fallacies of Republican talking points that have been deeply disturbing. No one has ever objected to having to prove who you are to vote. It’s been part of our nation’s history since the inception of voting. What has been problematic is the kind of restrictive IDs we’ve seen pop up,” pointing to states that make it more difficult for Native Americans and students to vote.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,  talks with reporters after a vote in the Capitol on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks with reporters on June 10. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

Abrams has become one of the nation’s leading advocates for increased voting rights following a contentious loss to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Her group Fair Fight Action is credited with helping to swing Georgia in the 2020 election, where it went for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992 and elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate a few months later.

The Peach State was also one of the earliest to enact new voting restrictions, with Kemp’s decision to sign the package into law in March drawing blowback, including the loss of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. A number of GOP-controlled states across the country have pushed laws that reduce voting hours and make it more difficult to vote by mail, amid other restrictions. A report last week also warned that some state legislatures are looking to make it easier to change election results.

For a voting rights bill to pass the Senate, it would require at least 10 Republican votes or for all 50 Democratic senators to vote to lower the legislative filibuster and allow a bill to advance with fewer than 60 votes. Manchin has said he won’t vote to remove the filibuster, but there’s hope among liberals that if he continues to see Republicans refuse to budge on his attempts at bipartisanship, he will at least consider changes to the filibuster if not its complete elimination.

“I’ve been sharing everything that I support and things I can support and vote with and things that I think is in the bill that doesn’t need to be in the bill, that doesn’t really interact with what we’re doing in West Virginia,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ll have to see what changes are made.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is among the many Democrats skeptical that Manchin will be able to reach a bipartisan deal on substantive voter protections, noting that GOP state legislatures tend to pass their voting bills along party-line votes.

“The idea that this can have some kind of bipartisan solution befuddles me, because every action taken in the legislatures is done just with Republican state senators, Republican assembly members, with no Democratic participation or input,” Schumer said Wednesday.

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