Senate Democrats tried and failed Tuesday to move their version of H.R.1, the bill to impose a federal election code on all 50 states. That 800-page travesty was doomed once West Virginia Democrat
came out against it. But now Democrats are rallying around Plan B, which is based on a three-page memo circulated by Mr. Manchin’s office.
It’s a curious document. The preamble insists that any voting bill “must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together.” But then it suggests an H.R.1 “compromise” that is no bipartisan kumbaya. As Republican leader
said last week in ruling out Mr. Manchin’s wish list, it still involves “an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections.”
To start, Mr. Manchin’s memo suggests mandating “at least 15 consecutive days of early voting.” Yet one prominent Democratic opponent of H.R.1., New Hampshire Secretary of State
has objected that his state’s constitution dates to 1783, and it “requires that a voter must be present” on Election Day unless “absent from the town or city, or physically disabled.” Yet New Hampshire, he added, has had “the third highest voter turnout in the country for each of the last four presidential elections.”
The Manchin memo proposes that Congress “ban partisan gerrymandering and use computer models.” It’s not clear precisely what Mr. Manchin has in mind, but skeptics will rightly see this as a plan to turn an overtly political process into a covertly political one that would be controlled by unaccountable technocrats.
Mr. Manchin wants to amp up campaign-finance rules by passing the Honest Ads Act. That proposal, per H.R.1, would require internet platforms to post a public list, with names and addresses, of anyone who spent more than $500 a year on “qualified political advertisements,” including messages “relating to any political matter of national importance.” Mr. Manchin would throw in the Disclose Act, putting new reporting rules on businesses and nonprofits whose “public communication” so much as “promotes” or “attacks” a candidate. The left wants to identify and then stigmatize donors to conservative causes.
The Manchin memo advocates forcing candidates for President and Vice President to release their “individual tax returns and certain business tax returns.” This is obviously a partisan response to President
who pledged to release his taxes but never did. He should have. That said, the requirements for the presidency, such as a minimum age of 35 years, are set by the Constitution, which nowhere mentions any duty to publicize IRS Form 1040.
Mr. Manchin also backs making the President and Vice President, within 30 days of taking office, “divest financial interests that pose a conflict of interest or disclose information about their business interests.” Good luck defining that neutrally, after years of inane court battles about whether Mr. Trump’s hotel business violated the Emoluments Clause. Voters are smart enough to judge conflicts of interest, but many on the left would love nothing more than to reserve the White House for politicians who never dirtied their hands with profits.
Mr. Manchin’s putative outreach to Republicans is his memo’s suggestion of a nationwide mandate to “require voter ID with allowable alternatives (utility bill, etc.) to prove identity to vote.” Utility bills, for one, are easily forged. This would undercut state laws that require showing photo ID, which may be a reason that Georgia’s
are supporting Mr. Manchin’s effort. In the past Democrats have argued that voter ID is nothing more than an attempt to suppress minority voters.
Mr. Manchin wants to “allow for maintenance of voter rolls by utilizing information derived from state and federal documents.” But his memo is vague, so who knows how the final legislation might read once Democrats ran with it. What’s clear is that, despite the billing, this isn’t what real compromise looks like.
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