Eyes On | The John Lewis Voting Rights Act
The “For the People Act”, S1, is not serious legislation, but it does have a serious purpose. S1 is not designed to be passed. It is designed to get another piece of legislation passed by making the other legislation look plausible and “moderate” in comparison. That other piece of legislation is called the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
On June 6, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin became the first to put this strategy into action: In an op-ed for a local paper, he lamented the partisanship in Washington, noting that no Republicans support S1, which means it is a very partisan bill indeed. He suggests we can find a more reasonable approach, “if we seek to find it together.” Finally, Manchin hits, as if by surprise, on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which he calls a “monumental” law “in the fight to guarantee freer and fairer elections.” There, he suggests, is the obvious compromise we’ve been waiting for!This is not about party—both sides are colluding to play this dangerous game. This is not party against party, but politicians against people. Manchin is merely the inaugurator, and so far this is playing out beautifully for the Senator. He’s being attacked by the hard-left for abandoning real reform, while conservative pundits like Brit Hume are suckered into suggesting that Manchin is bowing to the pressure of his relatively conservative constituency. The truth is nothing of the kind: Manchin is setting himself up to look like a hero of compromise while simultaneously stabbing American voters in the back with the legislation he intended to support all along: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And he’s gotten Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to help him out."In its essential provisions, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is just as progressive and just as destructive as S1, and it drives towards exactly the same goal—the federalization of American elections.The way elections currently work, according to our Constitution, states have the power to set their own rules. Some states have laws that require a voter to show ID when he votes. They may have laws that require a voter to vote in-person if he’s able. Or to have a matching signature on his mail-in ballot and the ballot envelope if he’s not able to vote in-person. They may have laws requiring that certified poll watchers be allowed sit close enough to see and hear what’s going on. They may have laws that require a recount in any election in which there are more votes cast than registered voters. That sort of thing.
That sort of thing makes it hard to cheat. Blue states generally do not have laws like the ones described above. Red states generally do. So if you want to turn a red state blue, via purple, you need to get rid of those laws, expanding the ease with which ineligible, illegal votes can be cast. This makes for fraud in the polls, and it works. In Connecticut for example, a state that is now supposedly deep blue but until recently had a Republican governor, the population and the total vote for the major parties have historically tracked closely with each other. Between 2012 and 2016, both counts increased by about 10,000.But between 2016 and 2020, when Connecticut’s population decreased by 25,000, the net vote for the major parties increased by 250,000. That’s an order-of-magnitude larger change, and in the wrong direction. And that is how things work in a state with lax anti-fraud laws. The votes don’t matter—the party in charge can have as many votes “cast” as it needs to ensure victory.The only barrier against protecting our states is that it remains up to each individual state what kind of laws to have: There is no way for the federal government to force a state to give up its election integrity legislation. If a state wants to require ID to vote (just as the government requires ID to get on a plane or register a car) that is entirely the state’s decision.Enter “pre-clearance,” a concept included in S1, and also at the heart of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Pre-clearance is the only part of either one of these bills that really matters: The rest is for show, pre-clearance is the operative and destructive feature.Pre-clearance would allow the Department of Justice to strike down state election laws, and would require that new state laws be submitted to the Department of Justice for approval. “Pre-clearance” means that the DOJ has “cleared” or “approved” a proposed state election law and given its permission to enact that law. It takes control of election law not just out of the hands of voters but also out of the hands of the legislators those voters elected. And it vests that control in the Department of Justice and the federal government, where I’m sure it will be safe.Pre-clearance was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 2013 case under a technicality—the formula that applied the rule to some states was, the Court ruled, Unconstitutional. The John Lewis Voting Rights Acts would apply pre-clearance to every state. At that point, politicians will be able to harvest all the ballots they need to get elected themselves—no ID requirements, no signature-matching. No real elections.Don’t let Joe Manchin play his phony hero-of-compromise game. He’s driving a hard, partisan bargain that he knows will favor his party by making election fraud common in all states in America. And if winning elections with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act also destroys the country in the process—well, figures Joe Manchin, so be it.