A sweeping Democratic bill that aimed for a major reform of voting rights is predicted to hit a stall when legislators vote on it on Tuesday, due to not having enough support behind it to get past a procedural hurdle.
S1, also known as the “For the People Act,” targeted outdated voting systems and limited voting hours, and also would have created a nationwide automatic voter registration system, mandated 15 days of early voting, ensured restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, required “dark money” groups to reveal who their anonymous donors are, and made voting by mail a simpler process.
The Democrats’ House version of the bill passed in March. But it has been held up in the Senate due to a tug-of-war between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
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But it will likely not get the 60 votes it needs to avoid running into a Republican senate filibuster. The GOP has been vocally opposed to the bill all along. Democrats also were not completely united on the bill, but Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer struck a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin for Manchin to vote “yes,” which would open a debate on a new version of the bill.
"Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support. I’ve found common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure,” said Manchin in a statement, according to CNN. “Today I will vote ‘YES’ to move to debate this updated voting legislation as a substitute amendment to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and participate in our great democracy,"
Manchin’s “yes” vote would mean all 50 Democrats in the Senate would be united in their support of the bill. But that only helps if Republicans do not filibuster, which they are all but certain to. However, the Democrats being united sends a message that the GOP is standing in the way of a progressive bill that would help advance voting rights in the United States.
Manchin’s problems with the bill included what he felt was partisan voting legislation, but he introduced changes to the bill that he could get behind with provisions including making Election Day a public holiday, a ban on gerrymandering, requiring voter ID with allowable alternatives, and changes to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Former president Barack Obama gave his support to Manchin’s version of the bill, noting the urgency of getting the bill passed.
“I have tried to make it a policy not to weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington, but what is happening this week is more than just a particular bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” said Obama, according to Yahoo News. “I do want folks who may not be paying close attention to what’s happening ... to understand the stakes involved here, and why this debate is so vitally important to the future of our country.”
Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams said she also supports Manchin’s changes in a CNN interview last week.
“What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible, no matter your geography,” she said. “And those provisions that he is setting forth are strong ones that will create level playing fields, will create standards that do not vary from state to state and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to the right to vote despite the onslaught of state legislation seeking to restrict access to the right to vote.”
It is unclear what the future will hold for the bill after Tuesday, despite the urgency around getting it passed before the 2022 midterm elections. Although it will likely have to wait until the next Congressional session, Schumer did not offer any plans going forward on getting it passed.
“Look, we will have the vote, and then we will discuss our future,” Schumer said, according to CNN. “Once that vote happens, we will discuss the future, not today, not now.”