May 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manchin, Murkowski call for reauthorization of Voting Right Act

Photo of a masked Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski speaking to each other as they walk down a hallway with aides behind them

Photo: Al Drago via Getty Images

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) sent a letter this week urging to congressional leaders to advance a bipartisan reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned discriminatory voting practices.

Why it matters: The bipartisan letter comes as Manchin faces criticism for withholding his support for the "For the People Act," a sweeping bill that would expand ballot access.

  • Voting rights have emerged a key issue this year as Republicans in legislatures throughout the country seek to tighten voting restrictions. Democrats have said the move will disproportionately target voters of color.
  • The letter is an attempt to show bipartisan support for bolstering voting access, but it's not clear enough Republicans will back the legislation, NBC News reports.

Context: The Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized in 2006. Since enactment, the act has been authorized and amended five times with "large, bipartisan majorities," Manchin and Murkowski write.

  • The Supreme Court in 2013 gutted a key section of the act, which determines which states must get federal pre-approval before they can change their voting laws but left it to Congress to rewrite the law.

What they're saying: "Protecting Americans’ access to democracy has not been a partisan issue for the past 56 years, and we must not allow it to become one now," the senators wrote.

  • "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."
  • The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
  • Manchin has maintained that legislation addressing voting rights requires a "bipartisan solution."
  • Murkowski said she had not received "much reaction" from other Republicans about the letter, per Reuters.
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