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With lawmakers from Texas fleeing the state in an effort to block a dangerous voting rights bill, I have been thinking a lot about what democracy means. To me, democracy is not about what party wins or loses or one faction fighting against another. It is about ensuring that everyone has a voice to build a country that works for all of us. And I know that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., shares these same ideas.

Manchin understands the importance of reaching across the aisle to work collaboratively in the name of democracy, and in the name of working class West Virginians. Unfortunately, necessary reforms to our nation’s voting and campaign finance system have been painted as a partisan effort.

But Manchin recognizes that the right to vote, and an election system free of shadowy out-of-state money, is too important to leave on the table. In fact, he is at that table right now, actively working with his colleagues in the Senate to protect the right to vote across the nation and to pass the strongest possible version of legislation that will safeguard our democracy.

Manchin has long positioned himself as a leader on voting rights issues. As West Virginia’s Secretary of State, he worked to modernize our voter registration systems, ensuring that we kept up with the times.

The only way to pass meaningful voting rights legislation is to work with both Democrats and Republicans to put together a bill that is good for every constituent. Getting dark money out of politics and cracking down on corruption has seen considerable support from the public, across the aisle, with 67% of Americans in favor of the types of reforms proposed, according to the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. This includes support from a majority of Republican voters. And Manchin’s compromise ensures that needed reforms will protect voting rights and root out dark money.

These are commonsense policies, like ending gerrymandering, establishing early and absentee voting, that make it easier for everyone to cast a ballot, including union workers with tight schedules. The anticorruption reforms would also eliminate bad actors that drown out the voices of the people who should truly be influencing American democracy: working class voters.

Manchin’s compromise would be remarkably effective in strengthening American democracy. But that is not the only reason why it should be passed into law. Passing voting rights and campaign finance reform legislation is the right thing to do. It is simply unacceptable that our great nation trails behind most other developed countries in terms of voter turnout, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Manchin’s leadership on this issue should make all West Virginians proud. We sent a fierce defender of democracy to represent us in Washington, and his work will go down in history. It is time for lawmakers to rally around his compromise and pass strong legislation.

Dan Poling is the former business manager of the West Virginia Painter’s Union (IUPAT) and a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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