Joe Manchin's plan to protect voting rights, explained
7 min read
fairly difficult
Manchin's idea won't fix America's democracy, but it could solve some pretty significant problems.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been an endless source of frustration for his fellow Democrats. He clings to dreams of bipartisanship that seem like fairy tales in a world where Republicans defrock their own leaders for the sin of acknowledging that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. And his loyalty to the filibuster may doom most of his party's legislative agenda.

Yet on Wednesday, Manchin proposed a solution to the congressional impasse over voting rights legislation that could be even more aggressive than a parallel proposal offered by Democratic leaders.

Under the Voting Rights Act, states and local governments with a history of racist voting practices were required to "preclear" new election rules with officials in Washington, DC. The idea was to catch rules that would disenfranchise voters of color before they go into effect, and block those laws before they could prevent a single voter from casting a ballot. And, while Republican support for preclearance evaporated in recent years, the Voting Rights Act had strong bipartisan support for many decades.

The Supreme Court, in a party-line vote with all of the Court's Republicans in the majority and all of its Democrats in dissent, effectively neutralized preclearance in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). Shelby County is a major reason why Republicans in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas are now able to pass laws that seem to serve no purpose other than making it harder to cast a ballot.

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Most congressional Democrats have rallied behind a bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that would restore preclearance in a handful of states, while simultaneously making it easier to impose preclearance on new states and local governments that attempt to disenfranchise racial minorities.

But Manchin…
Ian Millhiser
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