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Voting rights activity in Congress will reveal the limits of Sen. Manchin’s quest for bipartisanship, expert says

EVANSTON, Ill. — Republicans in the Senate have threatened to block the advancement of the Democrats’ signature voting rights bill. Political science and history experts from Northwestern University are available to comment on the For the People Act.

Alvin B. Tillery Jr. is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at 847-467-4697 or by email at

Quote from Professor Tillery
“The activity in Congress today around the “For the People Act” will reveal the limits of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) quest for bipartisanship in Congress. In order to pick up Republican supporters in the U.S. Senate, Manchin’s version of the bill has included a requirement for voter identification. It has also garnered support from progressive Democrats like Stacy Abrams and President Obama. It is likely that Abrams and Obama see the existential threat that Republicans’ voter suppression efforts pose to the future of democratic elections in this country and have decided to support the measure on the view that some protections are better leaving the states room for chicanery.

“Given Leader McConnell’s insistence that the best path for the Republicans to regain control of the Senate is for them to stonewall every legislative proposal that the Democrats make, I suspect that, even with the compromises that Joe Manchin and his party have made, the Republicans will still filibuster the bill. From there, the ball will be in the court of Sen. Manchin, who will face a choice of weakening or destroying his beloved filibuster or allow the Republicans to rise to and hold power as an unpopular minority.”

Kate Masur is an associate professor in history at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on the U.S. Civil War, Reconstruction, Civil rights and the 14th Amendment. She is the author of Until Justice Be Done: The First Civil Rights Movement published by W.W. Norton in spring of 2021. She can be reached at 847-491-2849 or by email at

Quote from Professor Masur
“History teaches us that if we’re to have a meaningful democracy in the United States, we need the federal government to protect citizens’ access to the ballot. Before the Civil War and in the Jim Crow Era, state legislators — driven by a desire for partisan power and at times by racial animus — freely restricted citizens’ right to vote, adopting policies that especially targeted communities of color. The promises of American democracy began to be fulfilled only when the U.S. government stepped in, through passing and enforcing measures like the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, the Fifteenth Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the face of present-day efforts by state legislatures to restrict access to the vote, Congress must rise to the occasion. Failure to do so may have disastrous consequences for our democracy.”