WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter addressed to congressional leadership, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called on their colleagues to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act (VRA) with a bipartisan vote. The two senators, both moderates in their parties, pointed to the long history of bipartisan support that the VRA has traditionally enjoyed, including in 2006 when its reauthorization passed the Senate with a 98-0 vote. Manchin has suggested that he would prefer reauthorization over the passage of Democrats’ landmark For the People Act, which he does not support.
Despite the call for bipartisan support, the only hold-up on reauthorization is Republicans; Murkowski was the only Republican to cosponsor the VRA restoration bill when it was introduced last session. Meanwhile, Democrats have been pushing for legislation to restore the strength of the VRA since the conservative U.S. Supreme Court struck down its core enforcement mechanism in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). They have also championed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act since 2019, which would re-establish key tenets of the VRA.
Reauthorization of the VRA would establish a new formula to replace the formula struck down in Shelby that would determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight of their election laws. In their letter, Manchin and Murkowski reference this ruling and the disastrous effects it has had on voting rights: “This decision effectively gutted one of the federal government’s most effective tools to preserve confidence in our nation’s elections, and we are seeing the results manifest themselves in state legislatures across the country.”