May 18, 2021 – Yesterday, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sent a letter to congressional leadership calling for the reauthorization of the Voting Right Act.
Senator Murkowski is the only Republican Senator who cosponsored a bill in the last Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. Only one Republican Representative voted for that bill when it passed the House in the last Congress.
Democracy 21 strongly supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which will reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, and is working for its enactment.
Democracy 21 also strongly supports and is working to enact the For the People Act, H.R. 1/S. 1, which will protect the right to vote and prevent Washington political money corruption. The legislation is sponsored by 49 Senators. Senator Manchin is not a sponsor, although he did sponsor the legislation in the last Congress.
It must be recognized that reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act will have no impact on the state voter suppression laws that are already enacted or that will be enacted prior to the Voting Rights Act becoming law.
The Voting Rights Act will not protect the millions of eligible citizens who could lose their ability to vote under the state voter suppression laws currently being enacted.
Unlike the Voting Rights Act, S. 1 will override the voter suppression laws already enacted and that will be enacted. The Constitution gives the federal government the authority to set the rules for voting in federal elections and to override conflicting state laws.
Senators Manchin and Murkowski say in their letter regarding voting rights that “inaction is not an option,” and express a bipartisan commitment to “free, accessible, and secure elections for all.”
The only way these goals can be achieved, however, is by enacting S. 1, the For the People Act.
The Voting Rights Act legislation requires states with a demonstrated record of racial discrimination to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department for changes they want to make in their voting laws. The pre-clearance requirements, however, will only apply to those state voting laws enacted after the Voting Rights Act has become law.
The Act will have no retroactive application to laws already in existence at the time the Act is signed into law.
This means that Senators Manchin and Murkowski need to support the enactment of S. 1 if they want to protect the right to vote for millions of eligible citizens, and to meet their commitment to “free, accessible, and secure elections for all.”
As Senator Raphael Warnock recently said, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act “builds for us the fire station to protect us against future fires. But the house of democracy, as a result of these voter suppression bills all across the country, is on fire right now.”

The Voting Rights Act is not an alternative to the For the People Act.  
Both bills must be enacted, but only the For the People Act will protect the right to vote of millions of citizens who face disenfranchisement if S. 1 is not enacted.
Senators Manchin and Murkowski should meet their commitment to “free, accessible, and secure elections for all,” by supporting S. 1 and supporting the steps necessary for S. 1 to pass the Senate and be enacted into law.