Democracy, only with hostages | Editorial – NJ.com
Across the nation, there has been a concerted effort to destroy democracy, and it’s not happening in a back room. It’s happening in jolly statehouse ceremonies held by Republican lawmakers who use lies about stolen elections and fictional fraud as a pretext to stop people from casting a ballot.
This year, 18 states have passed 30 laws that restrict poll access, largely because Republican officeholders know they could soon lose most statewide elections unless their growing minority populations are systematically discouraged from voting.
Now the country has just one chance to prevent this perversion of democracy, and its restoration will depend almost entirely on Joe Manchin reaching for his Profile in Courage moment.
The senator from West Virginia, whose conservatism is one reason why many Democrats scream into their pillows at night, helped craft a voting rights reform package called the Freedom to Vote Act last week, and there is much to like about its protections against the wave of voter suppression coming laws from state-level lawmakers.
Count the ways:
◊It allows automatic voter registration, online and same-day voter registration, and sets new vote-by-mail standards.
◊It makes Election Day a public holiday and mandates 15 days of early voting for federal elections.
◊It sets guidelines for redistricting that clamp down on partisan gerrymandering and mandates super-PACs to report their donors.
◊It funds the purchase of new voting machinery, requires all states to use paper ballots, and expands the list of acceptable voter IDs.
◊It protects poll workers and election officials, who have faced more than 100 violent threats incited by Donald Trump’s whingeing.
And there is much more.
The bill isn’t perfect. Its few critics say it needs to address how states conduct post-election tabulations and certification, and there is no sufficient enforcement mechanism for its mandate that in-person voting wait times be under 30 minutes.
It isn’t as comprehensive as the For the People Act that failed to earn Manchin’s support this summer, but “none of the omissions or revisions are deal-breakers,” wrote Marc Elias, the country’s preeminent voting rights attorney.
In fact, Elias believes this version “reflects a sobriety and understanding of the challenges facing voters that is worthy of its lofty name.”
But unless Manchin summons the political courage to do what is required to pass his own bill, it will go nowhere.
The Democrats hoped Manchin would agree to a filibuster “carveout” for this bill, allowing them to change the Senate rules so that it can advance with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Failing that, it will take 60 votes to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. Manchin had rejected the earlier bill on the premise he could gain bipartisan support with a better one, so Senate leadership will give him a few more days to find 10 Republican votes. He, too, will fail.
At that point, Manchin must choose between his loyalty to our Constitutional rights or his affection for an archaic parliamentary tool used purely for obstruction.
It didn’t seem like he was ready to conquer his fetish Monday, when he repeated that “The filibuster is permanent.”
Republicans appreciate his support. They lost the White House and the Senate last year, and now they are radicalizing against democracy in every state that they control.
The crusade in Texas is especially galling: Among other things, its new bill severely restricts vote-by-mail, making it harder for seniors and the disabled; it bans 24-hour and drive-through voting, making it harder for minorities and shift workers; and it allows partisan “poll-watchers” to intimidate voters without interference.
They spread toxic lies that the election was rigged – built on decades of lies about the prevalence of voter fraud – followed by a violent insurrection that left 5 dead and injured 138 cops, and a massive effort in 18 states to change the rules of voting.
We will soon see whether Joe Manchin will let them get away with it. Our democracy is suddenly a hostage scene.
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