Senior Senate Democrats have reached agreement with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin on a broad overhaul of U.S. voting rights law, a development that should unify all Democrats in the chamber behind a single plan for the first time.
The measure would create an automatic voter registration system through each state’s motor vehicle agency, makes Election Day a public holiday and provide voters with at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections. It also is designed to curtail “gerrymandering” of congressional districts and would put in place new campaign finance disclosure requirements that include mandating super-PACs and other outside groups report their donors.
The agreement comes after months of negotiations with Manchin, who withheld his support from a far more expansive Democratic proposal. But the measure still doesn’t have the Republican backing needed to advance to debate on the floor of the Senate, which is divided 50-50 between the two parties.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that a deal was near and that he would hold a vote next week to bring up the measure. Even without the support needed to prevail, such a tally would put all senators on record and allow Democrats to show unity on the matter heading into next year’s midterm elections.
The fight over ballot restrictions flared over the summer as Democratic lawmakers in Texas fled the state for 38 days to delay action on a slate of new limits on voting there. Republican legislatures around the country have been seeking to tighten voting rules, arguing the changes are needed for election security following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he was denied a re-election victory because of voting fraud.
Civil rights leaders and progressive groups are demanding the Senate eliminate or carve out a new exception to its traditional filibuster rule if the Republican minority uses the tactic to block protection of what they consider fundamental constitutional rights. However, Manchin and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose changing the rules, denying Democratic leaders the needed votes to do that.
The overhaul’s proponents include Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Alex Padilla of California, Jon Tester of Montana and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. In addition, Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has signed on as a co-sponsor.
“Following the 2020 elections in which more Americans voted than ever before, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “These attacks demand an immediate federal response.”
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