Texas legislative Democrats met with Senator Joe Manchin to discuss voting rights as they were in Washington to prevent the passage of a bill they say would restrict voting in their state.
Democrats from the Texas state legislature are in Washington in an attempt to block the passage of a Republican-sponsored bill. Republican Governor Greg Abbott called a special legislative session for the bill after Democrats staged a walkout from the legislature in May to oppose the bill.
State Senator Roland Gutierrez said he and other Texas Democrats spoke with Mr Manchin, who, as a conservative Democrat, is often the deciding vote in Democrats’ slim majority, about the legislation in Texas and their fears it could criminalise poll workers and empower so-called “poll watchers” who could monitor elections.
“He was surprised to know about some of the harsher elements of the bill,” he said. “So part of the meeting was informative and then the second part obviously was to ask him not just for his advice but to ask him to have Congress help us in some way shape or form.”
Mr Gutierrez said they are hoping this could take the form of Mr Manchin supporting some federal election law, whether it be the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Mr Manchin has in the past come out against the For the People Act and has also defended the use of the filibuster. At the same time, Mr Manchin and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have proposed legislation to reauthorise the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, it would include a provision that would require states with a history of voter disenfranchisement to receive federal clearance when they pass voting laws. The Supreme Court significantly weakened the formula for which states were subjected to the preclearance requirement in 2013.
Similarly, like his fellow conservative Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, he supported upholding the filibuster.
“We did talk about possibly coming up with his compromise bill and trying to get to the 60 votes, Something that would create fairness, access and security in voting,” Mr Gutierrez said.
“We are asking for anything from the federal government that would give us the guidance that we need, that would tell Republicans in the Texas legislature that the federal government is going to ensure that we have fair, accessible, secure elections, like we have had.”
Multiple Republican-controlled states have passed voting legislation that advocates say would make it harder for communities of color or people with disabilities to vote. This comes despite the fact Texas voted Republican in the last election.
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