On January 19, Kyrsten Sinema (D) of Arizona and Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia broke ranks with their fellow Democrats and voted with Republicans to block changes to the filibuster. These changes would have allowed Democrats to advance sweeping election reforms that they argued would have protected voting rights. The bill, now considered dead, would have created national automatic voter registration, allowed all voters to cast ballots by mail and weakened voter ID laws around the country. It also would have required many non-profits to disclose personally identifying information about their donors.
In the run up to the evening vote, President Biden held a press conference in which he said “it depends” when asked if he believed the 2022 midterm elections would be legitimate, indicating that the validity of the 2022 elections hinges on ending the filibuster to pass his party’s voter reforms. With his conditional answer, President Biden has exacerbated the real problem with voting in our country – Americans are losing faith the process is fair.
Research conducted by State Policy Network, with Heart+Mind Strategies, shows Americans already have relatively low confidence in our electoral system. But they also think it’s generally easy to vote (78% agree) and hard to cheat (58%) and think preventing voter fraud should be a higher priority than expanding access.
The election reforms that would unite the American public and reestablish trust in the system aren’t the ones President Biden is using scare tactics to push – they are largely procedural reforms and technological upgrades that must be done at the state and local level.
Federalizing election law, particularly in a way that ignores the security of our elections, does not address the real issues in our system and is not what the people want. Americans are craving reasons to have confidence in our election process and government, and in an effort to push through unpopular reforms, President Biden has given them the exact opposite.