Joe Manchin: Any Voting Rights Legislation Has To Make Trump Supporters Happy

Congress shouldn’t pass voting rights legislation unless it helps Donald Trump supporters trust that their votes will be counted, according to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

“Our ultimate goal should be to restore bipartisan faith in our voting process by assuring all Americans that their votes will be counted, secured and protected,” Manchin wrote Wednesday in a Washington Post op-ed about his opposition to killing the Senate filibuster.

But Manchin didn’t mention that many Republicans have lost faith in the voting process largely because Trump lost in the 2020 presidential election and then lied about it relentlessly. The lies fueled a mob that ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, interrupting lawmakers as Congress certified the final result.

Manchin’s top concern about Democrats’ For the People Act ― which he has said he supports ― seems to be that passing it without Republican backing would overly upset these volatile Trump supporters. He said so even more directly in a brief interview last month in the Senate basement.

“The only thing I would caution anybody and everybody about is that we had an insurrection on January 6, because of voting, right? And lack of trust in voting?” Manchin told HuffPost then. “We should not, at all, attempt to do anything that would create more distrust and division.”

Manchin’s argument is essentially the same thing Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere have said in an effort to justify new restrictions on ballot access: that they have to make changes to restore confidence in elections, even if the lack of confidence results from fake fraud claims. It’s the definition of pandering. It’s indulging a mass delusion.

Most people tell pollsters they think elections are fair. Overall trust in elections has gone up and down over the years, but it’s been much lower among Republicans since Trump’s loss, likely because Trump has falsely claimed the election was stolen. Democratic confidence in election results similarly declined after 2016, but most still said that election had been fair.

Democrats control the Senate, but with only 50 seats, they need 10 Republicans to break a filibuster. Most Senate Democrats want to change the rules so they can pass bills with a simple majority ― especially the For the People Act, which would expand ballot access and block many of the new voting restrictions that Republican state legislatures are putting in place.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) can’t change the rules without all 50 Democrats on board. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are holding out, saying their party’s policy goals aren’t worth enacting without some Republican support.

In his op-ed, Manchin said there is actually bipartisan support in the Senate for many provisions outlined in the For the People Act. The bill doesn’t have a single GOP co-sponsor, but Manchin claims Republicans actually do support many of its provisions.

“Efforts to expand voting hours and access, improve our election security and increase transparency in campaign finance and advertisement rules should and do have broad, bipartisan support and would quickly address the needs facing Americans today,” Manchin wrote. “Taking bipartisan action on voting reform would go a long way in restoring the American people’s faith in Congress and our ability to deliver results for them.”

It could be that Manchin just wants to make a show of seeking bipartisanship before the Senate takes any action on the voting bill, because it’s hard to imagine what, exactly, Democrats could do to restore Republicans’ faith in elections with Trump out there trying to destroy it.

Even after Georgia approved a new law last month limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, requiring identification numbers for mailed ballots, and empowering a partisan state election board to fire local superintendents ― changes spurred by Trump’s loss and Republicans’ subsequent defeat in a special election ― Trump is still complaining that the new measures don’t do enough.

“Too bad the desperately needed election reforms in Georgia didn’t go further,” Trump said in a statement this week.

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