McConnell-Backed Election Reform Gambit Is a Trap, Advocates Warn

As GOP-led states intensify their efforts to control the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, and his Republican caucus filibuster three separate Democratic voting rights legislations. assault on the franchise.

But with Senate Democrats gearing up for yet another attempt to strengthen federal voter protections, McConnell is signaling a willingness to cooperate with the majority party on a far more narrow reform effort — one that would entail tweaks to the obscure Electoral Count Act.

“It obviously has some flaws,” McConnell saidWednesday was the anniversary of the 1887 statute. It sets out procedures to count electoral votes and allows members of Congress to dispute presidential election results. Nearly 150 Republican lawmakers voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election results, just hours after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Reforms to the Electoral Count Act are “worth, I think, discussing,” the Kentucky Republican added.

Voting rights advocates immediately sensed danger — urged Democrats not to play along with the GOP leader.

“It’s a trap!” the progressive organization Indivisible warned in an email to supporters late Wednesday as momentum behind Electoral Count Act reform continued to build, fueled by the work of right-wing organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute and Cato.

Both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — whose refusal to support filibuster reform is a major reason for Democrats’ failure to pass voting rights legislation — voiced support for the push to alter the Electoral Count Act.

Manchin, who is being pressured by a McConnell-alignedDark money group to defend the 60-vote filibuster told Politico that nascent discussions on the 1887 law are “a good start.”

“At least they’ve got people talking now,” said the West Virginia Democrat. A bipartisan group convenedSen. Susan Collins (R. Maine) is said to have begun discussions about a plan to reform The Electoral Count Act.

A spokesperson for Sinema, meanwhile, said the Arizona senator “continues to believe bipartisan action is needed to strengthen our democracy and has been in constant contact with colleagues in both parties on this and other potential areas of common ground.”

Experts and campaigners for voting rights fear that the increased attention on the Electoral Count Act may distract from more fundamental efforts that are being made to end voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and other anti-democratic practices that Republicans are using. deployingIn states across the country ahead the pivotal 2022 midterms.

Sherrilyn Ifill was president and director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. series of tweetsThis week, I stated that while the Electoral Count Act is worth considering, it would not be sufficient to pass robust federal voter protections.

“We must not deny the truth: that voter suppression schemes create obstacles designed to frustrate voting and drive down turnout among Black, Latino, Asian American, student, and disabled voters,” wrote Ifill. “It is an affront to democracy and a denial of full citizenship that must be addressed.”

Ezra Levin (co-executive Director Indivisible) expressed similar concerns Wednesday evening in a statement.

“Who on this earth believes Mitch McConnell woke up this morning and decided to start caring about democracy? Nobody,” Levin said. “McConnell is working to outmaneuver Democrats.”

Reforming the Electoral Count Act “would do nothing to reverse or prevent gerrymandering or voter suppression,” he continued. “If McConnell can convince Manchin and Sinema to go down this path, that would successfully sideline efforts to pass the big, consequential democracy bills that combat voter suppression.”

“Our message to Senate Dems is simple: Don’t get distracted!” Levin added. “Pass the damn Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis [Voting Rights Advancement Act], and don’t fall for McConnell’s tricks.”

In a new petition, Indivisible urges Senate Democrats to “add reforms to the Electoral Count Act as an amendment to the Freedom to Vote Act to ensure these reforms are passed ALONGSIDE the other bills.”

It appears that the Senate Democratic Leadership does not intend to support Electoral Count Act Reform as a standalone alternative to Freedom to Vote Act or other voting rights legislation.

“The Electoral Count Act [reform] says you can rig the elections anyway you want and then we’ll count it accurately,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told PoliticoIn an interview

The Freedom to Vote Act, which is a compromise measure, was created after the GOP & Manchin. obstructedThe For the People Act is a more comprehensive law that has the support every memberThe Senate Democratic caucus.

If passed, the billThis bill would make Election Day a legal holiday, expand early and postal voting, ban partisan gerrymandering and strengthen campaign finance regulations, along with other reforms.

However, because the bill is not supported by Republicans, it has been rejected. failed to reachThe 60-vote threshold that is required under the current filibuster rules.

While Schumer is vowing to pursue changes to the upper chamber’s rules if Republicans filibuster the Freedom to Vote Act a second time, Manchin has declined to endorse specific filibuster reforms.

“Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option — it’s very, very difficult,” Manchin told reporters earlier this week, referring to the procedure by which Democrats could alter Senate rules without needing Republican votes.

“It’s a heavy lift,” he added.

Sean Eldridge, founder of Stand Up America and president noted in response that “Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans reformed the filibuster to confirm three Trump Supreme Court nominees with simple majority votes.”

“If 51 votes is good enough for a lifetime confirmation to the highest court in our land,” Eldridge wrote on Twitter, “it should be enough to protect our freedom to vote.”