Stacey Abrams on Thursday praised West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s proposed changes to voting rights legislation, a notable statement of support from someone who is widely seen as a leader among progressives on the issue.
“What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography,” Abrams, a Democrat and strong advocate for voting rights, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “And those provisions that he is setting forth are strong ones that will create a level playing field, will create standards that do not vary from state to state, and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to the right to vote despite the onslaught of state legislations seeking to restrict access to the right to vote.”
Manchin, a key Democratic vote in a 50-50 Senate and who opposed the more sweeping For the People Act in its current form, on Wednesday released a proposal that would make Election Day a holiday, ban gerrymandering, mandates at least 15 consecutive days of early voting and institutes a voter ID requirement that includes a utility bill as an alternative.
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Asked if she could accept Manchin’s compromise even if a voter ID mandate is part of it, the Georgia Democrat wouldn’t explicitly endorse Manchin’s proposal but she didn’t reject it, either.
“What has been problematic is the type of restrictive ID that we’ve seen pop up,” she said. “Our point is simply that the restrictions on the forms of ID should meet the needs of the people. And what he is proposing makes sense because it says what we’ve had in this country for so many decades which is that people can prove their identity in various ways but we should not narrow the playing field so much that we push voters out of participation simply because of restrictions that make no sense and do not increase security.”
She added, “This is a first and important step to preserving our democracy.”
A voter ID requirement in order to cast a ballot has been viewed by many progressives as discriminatory toward racial minorities, though Republicans have said it is essential to deter voter fraud.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to move the For the People Act in its current form for votes next week despite Manchin’s opposition. Manchin told CNN on Thursday that he’s undecided on whether he will vote to take up the voting bill, saying he is trying to win over GOP support for his proposal. He also said voter ID is not a red line for him and would not say if Schumer should delay next week’s vote.
“That’s going to be Leader Schumer’s decision to make on that,” he said, adding that he has been talking with Abrams. “I’ve been working across the aisle with all the Republicans trying to get people to understand that that’s the bedrock of our democracy, an accessible, fair, and basically secured voting. That’s it. And right now, in a divided country, it’s not about me, it’s about our country.”
Senate Majority Whip Duck Durbin of Illinois told reporters Thursday that he has concerns about what Manchin suggests leaving out of the voting rights bill.
“What he excludes is troublesome, worrisome,” Durbin said.
He also said he believes that it’s important to put a voting rights bill on the floor even though there is no evidence Republicans would support it, adding “members need to be on the record.”
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction with Manchin’s proposed changes to the voting rights bill, specifically drawing issue the requirement for voter ID.
“I mean I’m not supportive of voter ID especially nationally and to impose that, I know New Yorkers don’t want that either,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN.
CNN’s Lauren Fox, Alex Rogers, Ted Barrett, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju contributed to this report.