Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Monday urged Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in an effort to demonstrate bipartisan support for the protection of voting rights.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Monday, Manchin and Murkowski said that voting rights should not become a partisan issue.
“Inaction is not an option. Congress must come together – just as we have done time and again – to reaffirm our longstanding bipartisan commitment to free, accessible, and secure elections for all,” Manchin and Murkowski wrote. “We urge you to join us in calling for the bipartisan reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act through regular order. We can do this. We must do this.”
Manchin and Murkowski do not reference the new voting rights bill, S. 1 — the “For The People Act” that passed in the House and recently underwent a contentious markup in the Senate — in their letter, but instead hyped the reauthorization of the VRA, a less ambitious legislative move.
“We reflect not just on the positive impact this legislation has had on individual Americans’ ability to exercise their most fundamental right – the right to vote – and the strength of our democracy writ large, but on the important work we still have to do to realize that promise of ensuring the right of all to vote,” the senators wrote.
The Voting Rights Act has not been reauthorized since 2006. The Supreme Court, however, gutted the law when it ruled that the formula set by Congress to determine whether state and local governments were required to get prior approval by the Justice Department for voting and election changes was outdated.
Manchin and Murkowski’s letter comes amid Democrats’ push for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would require states with a recent record of voting rights discrimination to get approval on a federal level before changes to election laws are implemented.
The letter also comes as Manchin faces backlash from progressives for being the only member of the Democratic caucus who did not support the “For the People Act,” a sweeping bill that would expand ballot access. The Democratic-led House passed the bill without GOP support in March.
The West Virginia senator has repeatedly argued that he does not support the “For the People Act” because, he claims, support from both sides of the aisle is needed to overhaul federal voting laws. Republicans have been unified in their opposition to Democrats’ sprawling democracy overhaul bill. During a Senate committee mark-up last week that lasted more than eight hours, Republicans issued partisan barbs about a Democratic “takeover” of elections and expressed their willingness to double down on President Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen presidential election.