Sen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday threw cold water on the Democrats’ hopes of making sweeping changes to the country’s election rules.
Mr. Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat who can hold up passage of his party’s bills in the evenly divided Senate, said he would not support a proposal that overrides states’ voter ID laws.
He expressed support for the Democrats’ efforts to expand voting rights but said there are limits to what he would agree to on voter ID laws, which is one of Republicans’ chief objections to the legislation.
“I firmly believe that we need commonsense voter ID requirements,” Mr. Manchin said.
He also raised objections to fellow Democrats’ plans to expand mail-in voting and block states from updating voter rolls, which are both top priorities for his party.
Senate Democrats are preparing to take another shot at passing new voting laws when they return in September from the chamber’s summer vacation.
A key provision in their bill, which was blocked by Senate Republicans in June, would have circumvented state voter ID laws by allowing people without IDs to instead sign a statement attesting that they are who they say they are. Democrats said the workaround was needed because tough ID requirements in some Republican-run states will keep minorities from voting, a charge Republicans insist is a lie.
“We are witnessing the most sweeping and coordinated attacks on voting rights since the era of Jim Crow,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said before a pre-dawn procedural vote Wednesday that brought the bill up again to be considered.
Republicans said states are enacting stronger requirements, including voter ID laws, to minimize the chances of election fraud. By trying to make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots or not show ID, they said, shows that Democrats who are trying weaken election integrity and possibly skew in favor of Democrats.
Mr. Schumer said he will replace the bill with a compromise measure that Senate Democrats, including Mr. Manchin, have been working on.
The Democrats had hoped to have had an agreement before they left for the monthlong break that is scheduled to last until Sept. 13.
Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, another Democrat involved in the negotiations, told The Washington Times that they were “very close” to an agreement but ran out of time.
With the Senate evenly divided, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, no Democratic bill can win a majority without Mr. Manchin‘s support if it is opposed by all Senate Republicans, as is the case with the voting measure. Mr. Manchin‘s support, however, would not guarantee a bill would pass because Republicans would still be able to filibuster any measure unless 10 senators cross party lines.
It’s unclear how the compromise bill being negotiated would overcome that political reality.
The political left is pushing for the Senate Democrats to do away with the filibuster, but the party’s moderates such as Mr. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they will not go along.
Mr. Manchin also objected to the Democratic bill’s measures to expand mail-in voting and bock states from purging names from the voter rolls. He said it should not prohibit states from having “guardrails” on absentee voting “or prevent local elections officials from doing basic maintenance of voting rolls.”
According to the left-of-center Brennan Center, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls between 2014, a third more than between 2006 and 2008. The Democrats’ voting bill would have required states to confirm through other state records that a person was no longer eligible to vote before removing them from the rolls.
Democrats have accused GOP election officials of manipulating the voter rolls to disenfranchise Black voters. Republicans counter that keeping voter roll up to date is not discriminatory.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, came under fire from the left in June when his office removed 101,789 voters from the rolls. He said the voters had submitted a U.S. Postal Service change of address form, had election mail sent to them returned, or had no contact with elections officials for five years. “Making sure Georgia’s voter rolls are up to date is key to ensuring the integrity of our elections,” Mr. Raffensperger said at the time. “There is no legitimate reason to keep ineligible voters on the rolls.”