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Manchin’s Stance on Voting Bill Called Betrayal to WV Black Voters

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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a breakfast discussion in 2017. (Flickr/Third Way Think Tank/license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a breakfast discussion in 2017.
(Flickr/Third Way Think Tank/license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)
 By Nadia Ramlagan - Producer, Contact
June 10, 2021

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Black West Virginians are voicing disappointment and anger over Sen. Joe Manchin's - D-W.Va. - staunch opposition to the For the People Act, a bill that would overhaul voting procedures nationwide.

The legislation would expand voting access, restore portions of the Voting Rights Act, and boost transparency for political donations. Manchin is the only Senate Democrat who hasn't co-sponsored the bill.

Cabell County resident Jennifer Wells, senior organizer with Community Change Action, said Manchin's decision feels like a slap in the face, and said the Black vote pushed Manchin into office in 2018.

"He would not be in office if Black people did not go to the polls," said Wells. "In his re-election campaign, we showed up. We weren't always happy with him or his decisions he makes at the federal level, but we showed up because we understood the threat."

Earlier this week, Manchin met with National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil-rights leaders in what appeared to be a futile gathering.

Manchin said while the conversation was, quote, "constructive," his stance on the bill remains unchanged, arguing there isn't enough GOP support for the legislation, and instead calling for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Critics, including many top Democrats, say that bill isn't a replacement for the sweeping reforms outlined in the For the People Act.

Clerks from 54 of the state's counties have signed onto a letter opposing the For the People Act, but Former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said amendments were made to address their concerns.

"That's a little disheartening because it ignores what the people of West Virginia want," said Tennant. "There's poll after poll that show that people in West Virginia - Democrats, Republicans, independents - want what is in this bill."

Tennant said allowing any voter to vote by mail in federal elections and other measures included in the For the People Act could be a game-changer for many residents trying to cast their vote in rural regions where transportation access is a challenge.

"This For the People Act is so important because it protects our freedom to vote," said Tennant. "And it protects it many different ways."

Manchin continues to get heat from his fellow West Virginians, including the influential United Mine Workers of America, who on Tuesday re-emphasized its support for the For the People Act. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer - D-NY - says he plans to move forward with a vote on the bill.

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