West Virginia voting rights advocates seek to sway Manchin
WHEELING — West Virginia advocates pushing to pass the “For The People” voting rights act say they will continue to try and convince U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin why the bill is necessary — and they may even make an appeal to his ego.
The advocates spoke out during a video call Wednesday organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Manchin, D-W.Va., released an op-ed last week expressing his opposition to the “For The People Act” currently before the Senate. The legislation addresses enhancements for voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government.
Manchin called the act “too partisan,” and stated “voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.”
Manchin instead supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Among other things, the bill would require states to pre-clear certain changes to their voting laws with the federal government.
The video call Wednesday came a day after Manchin met with civil rights leaders to discuss his position and hear their thoughts on the issue.
“I’m really concerned. It seems nobody is able to get to Sen. Manchin,” said the Rev. David Fryson of The New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City, who is also an attorney and diversity professional. “He met with civil rights leaders and came away saying the same thing.
“He has no criticism of the bill itself. His problem is Republicans are not voting for it. That’s crazy as it is.”
Advocates have tried to appeal to Manchin’s intelligence, but he knows what is in the bill, according to Fryson.
“We have tried to appeal to his morality, and he hasn’t answered,” he said. “He has an ego. Probably how we push him is through his ego.”
Fryson believes Manchin is concerned how his legacy will be perceived in the future.
“Does Sen. Manchin want his name to go down with (former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace and those opposed to expanding democracy?” he asked. “He has a chance to make a mark.
“Will he be known as that man from West Virginia who had an opportunity to stand up for democracy and he did it? Or will school children read about him in the future and think, ‘What was he thinking?'”
Manchin’s office said his position on the For the People voting rights act has not changed this week since the op-ed article was released, or the meeting with the civil rights activists on Tuesday.
Lynette Maselli of Fix Our Senate-WV said state legislatures continue to revise their election laws, and too often these changes result in harm to voters either because of their ethnicity or their neighborhood.
“They (the state legislatures) are taking us back to the days when millions were disenfranchised because of who they are, and where they live,” she said. “States are passing laws making it possible for them to overturn election results even when they are certified by a county board.”
Former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said she was both disappointed and disheartened by Manchin’s stance on the For The People Act. She thinks the public as a whole is being misled on the details of the legislation.
“There is intentional misleading — that is what is so hurtful about this,” she said. “People are just making up stuff because they don’t want this legislation.”
Tennant said the legislation will not result in a federal takeover of elections, and the elections clerks she has spoken with said it can be implemented. The bill also is not an unfunded mandate from the federal government, she said. Money is available to states to assure there are secure elections.