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University of Alabama football head coach Nick Saban and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West are urging Sen. Joe Biden (D-W.Va.) to support his party’s voter reform measure “that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of outcomes in all Federal elections.”
The letter to Manchin from Saban and West, both of whom are fellow West Virginians, comes as Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have steadfastly refused to eliminate the filibuster, which would be needed in order to vote on the legislation, out of concern that Republicans, once they are back in charge, will do the same thing and reverse any Democratic legislative gains.
“We strongly support urgently needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of outcomes in all Federal elections,” the letter to Manchin said.
“The Freedom to Vote Act, which you sponsored with Committee Chair Senator [Amy] Klobuchar and other colleagues, effectively addressed these goals. Now we also support your leadership in shaping legislation to secure our democracy by protecting election integrity, principled Presidential transitions, and our national security during transitions,” the letter continued.
“We come from some of our nation’s most popular sports leagues, conferences, and teams. Some of us have roots and shaped our lives in West Virginia,” they wrote. “Others followed very different paths and some of us have been rivals in sports or business.
“But we are all certain that democracy is best when voting is open to everyone on a level playing field; the referees are neutral, and at the end of the game the final score is respected and accepted,” the letter, which was also signed by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, and former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, said.
The letter voiced support for “elections open for all Americans” as well as “impartial conduct and score-keeping.”
“Our democracy is at its best when all Americans are encouraged to participate,” the letter continues. “We support measures to provide voters with a range of opportunities to obtain and cast a lawful ballot, including robust in-person, early, and absentee voting options.
“We support the use of election security, equipment, and record-keeping measures that are reliable and evidence-based, and clearly support the integrity of election processes,” it adds.
“These principles are now under intentional and unprecedented challenge,” the letter continued. “In the last year, some 20 states have enacted dozens of laws that restrict voting access and allow local officials or state legislatures to interfere inappropriately with Federal election outcomes.
“Motivated by the unanticipated outcomes of recent close elections conducted with integrity, these state laws seek to secure a partisan advantage by eliminating reliable practices with proven safeguards and substituting practices ripe for manipulation,” the letter says, though, in reality, no state voter integrity laws passed since the 2020 election bar anyone who has a legal right to vote from doing so.
Republicans have pushed back on the legislation, accusing Democrats of seeking to overturn state voter integrity laws and implement alternative voting measures they say will lead to mass vote fraud.
“The truth is this is not about voting rights,” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said last Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News. “This is about a partisan political power grab, and they are just trying to dress it up and sell it as something else. I just don’t think the American people are buying it.”
CNN went on to report that in the original footnotes of the letter, Saban indicated that he does not support ending the filibuster in order to get the legislation passed.
“Coach Saban is not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate. He believes this will destroy the checks and balances we must have in our Democracy. The others signing this letter take no position on this aspect of Senate policies,” the footnote read, according to CNN.
“There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy,” Sinema said.
“This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year,” she added.