Ken Cuccinelli is National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative. Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared on WVNews.com on September 8, 2021.
In June, just days before the U.S. Senate was to vote on Democrats’ federal takeover of elections deceptively named the ‘For the People Act,’ West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin drew a red line in the sand.
The senator issued a three-page list of policy demands, outlining for the first time his willingness to support key provisions of Democrats’ election legislation. According to Bloomberg, Manchin’s proposed changes constituted “a bid for a compromise on an issue that has put him at odds with the rest of his party.”
The legislation ultimately failed in the Senate, so when House Democrats recently circumvented the committee review process to abruptly force a vote on new election legislation known as H.R. 4, observers naturally expected it to incorporate Manchin’s proposals.
Instead, Democrats ran in the complete opposite direction.
The previous year’s version of H.R. 4, for which Manchin (and Republican senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski) previously expressed support, morphed into a grab-bag of liberal policies completely contrary to Manchin’s proposals and pre-requisites that election reform be bi-partisan and adhere to regular order.
“Congressional action on federal 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 wrote in a June op-ed. “The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
In reality, H.R. 4 is a politically driven takeover of state elections designed to rig the system in Democrats’ favor. It’s so unpopular and obviously partisan Nancy Pelosi had to force it through the House while the nation was focused on thousands of Americans stranded in Afghanistan.
Unsurprisingly, no Republicans voted for the House bill, but make no mistake Democrats’ bait-and-switch would have Manchin bow to political pressure from his party’s radical leftists. In 2021, H.R. 4 is a mere shadow of the bill Manchin once supported.
Manchin called for a voter I.D. requirement in his compromise proposal, albeit a very weak one. H.R. 4 effectively abolishes voter I.D. Any state with a commonsense voter I.D. law would have to seek approval from the Biden administration. In fact, H.R. 4 makes voter I.D. an automatic indicator that a state is racist, thereby subjecting such states’ elections to being dictated by particularly radical Washington bureaucrats.
Ironically, although H.R. 4 would do away with voter I.D., anglers 15 or older in West Virginia must still possess both a fishing license and a state-issued ID or driver’s license while fishing. So, under H.R. 4, children in West Virginia need more identification to fish than adults would need to vote.
Manchin insisted, reasonably, that the U.S. attorney general should not be made an ultra-powerful, unelected election “czar.” H.R. 4 would directly refute that by vastly expanding the attorney general’s authority to unilaterally determine voting violations.
Manchin also argued that H.R. 4 “needs to have objective measures for determining whether a state or locality has a pattern of discrimination” and should be subject to “pre-clearance,” the constitutionally questionable legal requirement that any change to a state’s election laws or processes must first be approved by the federal government.
In fact, H.R. 4 would re-write the Voting Rights Act so that the federal government would once again have veto power over state election laws — one of many ways H.R. 4 directly overrides previous Supreme Court rulings.
In order to overturn a state’s election law, federal employees would not have to show that the law had any actual discriminatory effect or intent. The mere accusation would be enough. Disliking the law for political reasons would also be enough.
In place of “objective measures,” Democrats substituted a system in which trial lawyers and an ultra-powerful attorney general would decide virtually all election discrimination questions.
Frivolous lawsuits and even collusive settlements would be sufficient evidence to subject state election laws to the whims of federal bureaucrats. In other words, the mere accusation of discriminatory voting patterns supersedes evidence.
Whether a lawsuit was dropped, dismissed, or settled — all that matters is how many times a state has been sued in order to funnel it into “pre-clearance,” where the most radical left-wing lawyers, not the people, control the fate of states’ election laws.
The facts no longer support liberal Democrats’ manufactured narrative of widespread voter discrimination. Voting participation of African Americans in states with a history of discrimination now often exceeds that of white Americans.
In truth, today in the U.S. it’s easier to register and vote than ever before, regardless of what color you are, what party you are, or where you live. We should be celebrating this great accomplishment, while always looking to improve.
As the Senate moves to consider H.R. 4, the eyes of West Virginia and the nation will be on Manchin. He will face intense pressure from the Left, but if he remains true to his principles and his word — rejecting partisan voting bills and preserving the filibuster — he will stick with the people of West Virginia and reject H.R. 4 as the radical, hyper-partisan bill that it is.