Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been masquerading as a centrist, intent on preserving the filibuster to restore bipartisanship to Washington. But the fact is that this has been a subterfuge all along to disguise the fact that he is intent on passing the core of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposals to deform our voting system.
He gave away the game when he announced that he was supporting HR 1 with ”modifications.” The specific provisions he will agree to or not agree to are not as important as his support for a fundamental transformation of elections in America from state regulation to federal regulation by the president, the Department of Justice and his appointed attorney general.
Our Founding Fathers were quite deliberate in vesting the power to oversee elections for Congress in the state legislatures. They intended that provision as a check and balance against federal usurpation of state democracies and their replacement by a system of federal autocracy.
Congress wisely made an exception when it passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This law, vital to ending discrimination on grounds of race in elections, superseded the guarantee of state control, citing ongoing state disobedience of the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition of racial discrimination in voting. It found that the eleven states of the old confederacy — and New York State —were guilty of racial discrimination. It took away the power to regulate elections from their legislators and vested it instead in the Department of Justice.
At its core, the Voting Rights Law requires the prior approval of the DOJ for any change in voting rights or procedures in any of the covered states. This pre-clearance requirement was most often used to alter or override congressional reapportionment to protect minority voting power.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held that there was inadequate evidence of racial discrimination to justify continued federal oversight and usurpation of state control over elections.
Now Manchin and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., want to restore Justice Department control and extend it to all fifty states, despite the lack of evidence of racial discrimination. With 59 Black, 46 Hispanic, 17 Asian American, and six Native American members among the 435 in the House, there is no convincing evidence of discrimination.
But, under the bill supported by Schumer and Manchin, every state will have to submit to the DOJ any change in the election law, voter qualifications, the requirements for voter ID, and even the reapportionment lines of House districts before they could take effect. Joe Biden — through the DOJ — would have a veto over any of these changes.
So Joe Biden could decide the ground rules of the next congressional elections. He could oversee the drawing of the district lines, the requirements for voter identification, the availability of absentee ballots, and the extent of mail-in voting.
It damn near gives Biden the power to appoint the next Congress bypassing the elections. It doesn’t really matter whether photo ID requirements or changes in absentee or paper ballots make it into the final bill. The provisions could be altered by the Biden Justice Department anytime it wanted to.
In short, Manchin may be preserving the 60-vote requirement in the Senate, but he is ending our legislative democracy.
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