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This editorial originally appeared in The Times West Virginian, and was distributed by The Associated Press.

It has historically been Congress’ job to step in and pass laws that protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, especially when multiple states continue to pass and enforce laws that erode those rights.

Such is the case with the right to vote, which the framers of the U.S. Constitution considered the linchpin of democracy.

It is widely accepted that, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required states to get federal pre-clearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or how elections are held. The Voting Rights Act — passed in the height of the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights movement — is a prime example of how Congress has the duty to protect our freedoms.

Pair the lack of the pre-clearance guardrail with states bent on promoting the “Big Lie” that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president and a perfect storm is now sweeping the home of the great American experiment.

The storm is a set of restrictive voting laws that multiple states passed during last winter’s legislative sessions across America.

The bill that has probably received the most attention comes from the state of Georgia, which basically gives the state legislature final say over which candidate wins a race, as opposed to the state’s secretary of state, the office that traditionally oversees elections laws. Georgia, of course, — had Shelby Co. vs. Holder not been struck down in 2013 — would normally have to get U.S. Justice Department approval for its voting law changes, but not now.

And, the voting law changes are just the beginning.

Many states have been conducting so-called voting audits this year to try and make the “Big Lie” become real. Last week, the Arizona audit — conducted in a state where Trump lost —actually resulted in finding 300 more votes for President Biden and, therefore, proved Donald Trump was not and is still not the winner.

All of these actions are designed to create confusion and force many voters to simply sit at home on election day filled with apathy and growing disdain for the government.

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However, all is not lost and there has been a fight underway all year in the U.S. Congress.

First, there was the For The People Act, which was attacked before the ink dried on the printed bill as part of a well-executed misinformation campaign.

The bill basically died when U.S. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was not going to support the bill because it had no bipartisan support.

Then came the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Manchin wrote about June 6 in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, that he would support instead of the For The People Act.

“I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights,” Manchin states in his June 6 letter.

But, when that bill failed to gain any traction, on Sept. 14, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the Freedom to Vote Act with Manchin and seven other senators as the bill’s lead sponsors. The compromised bill takes all of the best practices from the two previous bills, while still working to prevent district gerrymandering, sets rules for disclosing dark money and sets a standard for how election audits are to be conducted.

Most importantly, the bill establishes federal criminal penalties for deceiving and intimidating voters and other forms of voter suppression.

The Freedom to Vote Act bill is a piece of legislation whose time has come for the very reasons Manchin pointed out in his June 6 open letter.

“Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. 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.”

Manchin should continue to work with his Republican colleagues in the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act because everyone should have confidence in democracy.

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