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By rejecting Democrats' election overhaul bill, Joe Manchin may have saved America

On Sunday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail published an op-ed by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC US, EU pledge to work together on climate amid reported dissension on coal Senate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill MORE in which the West Virginia Democrat announced his opposition of the For the People Act, a bill that aims to impose a variety of election-related laws on states across the country.

Without Manchin’s support, the odds that the For the People Act will become law any time soon have effectively sunk to zero.

According to Manchin, the primary reason he is not willing to vote for the legislation is that he believes the For the People Act poses a serious danger to the future of the country.

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“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening blinds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For The People Act,” Manchin wrote in his article. 

It might sound like hyperbole to some, but Manchin’s concern about the threat posed by the partisan nature of the bill is absolutely right. The For the People Act is truly one of the most troubling pieces of legislation proposed in recent memory. Should it ever become law, voters’ faith in elections would be eroded, regardless of whether widespread voter fraud actually occurs.

Among the many worrisome provisions included in the For the People Act are a ban on state voter ID laws, a mandate requiring all states to allow mail-in voting and prohibitions on any attempt by states to require a witness signature or notarization when casting absentee ballots.

In other words, the For the People Act would effectively make it impossible for states to guard against even the most basic forms of voter fraud.

In a March article, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation specializing in voting regulations and fraud, highlighted just how easy it would become for voter fraud to occur if the For the People Act were to become law.

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The For the People Act would “eviscerate state voter ID laws that require a voter to authenticate his identity,” von Spakovsky wrote. “Indeed, it would force states to allow anyone to vote who simply signs a form saying that they are who they claim they are. When combined with the mandate that states implement same-day voter registration, it means I could walk into any polling place on Election Day, register under the name John Smith, sign a form claiming I really am John Smith, cast a ballot, and walk out. Not only would election officials have no way of preventing that or verifying that I am not really John Smith, I could repeat this in as many polling places as I can get to.”

In response to these concerns, supporters of the For the People Act typically argue that there has been no evidence that widespread voter fraud has significantly altered important elections in the past. Therefore, they reason, states should be forced to make voting as simple and easy as possible.

But putting aside the dubious claim that voter fraud has not altered past election outcomes, the fact is that election laws are not merely in place to protect fraud from occurring. They also exist because they help reduce the perception of voter fraud, instilling confidence in the outcome, no matter who wins.

If Americans cannot trust election results because the rules are designed in such a way that voter fraud is easy to commit, whether the fraud occurs or not, then the validity of elections will forever be called into question. 

This might at first glance appear to be a highly partisan view. But survey results show voters of every political persuasion worry about voter fraud — at least, until their “side” wins.

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Just after the Nov. 2020 election, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found 70 percent of Republicans said they didn’t believe the election was “free and fair.” Prior to the election, only 35 percent expressed significant concerns about the validity of the election.

Democrats, on the other hand, overwhelmingly said they trusted the results, with 90 percent saying the elections were free and fair. However, prior to the election, when left-leaning media were making claims about alleged election interference by the Trump administration, only 52 percent of Democrats said they trusted that the election would be fair.

A free nation cannot exist if its citizens are worried that elections can’t be trusted, and like it or not, that’s exactly how tens of millions of Americans have felt over the past year.

Contrary to the claims made by supporters of the For the People Act, the bill is nothing more than a highly partisan attempt to solidify political power — one that would further divide an already deeply divided nation and put the future of the country at risk.

But you do not have to take my word for it. Sen. Manchin, a longtime Democrat, said it best in his article announcing his opposition to the bill: “Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.”

Justin Haskins is the editorial director of the Heartland Institute. Follow him on Twitter @JustinTHaskins.