- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Nick Saban, Jerry West and other sports figures from West Virginia recently signed a letter urging Sen. Joe Manchin III to support the passage of voting rights legislation. 

The letter, sent to the Democrat from West Virginia last week and made public Monday, says the Freedom to Vote Act would “secure our democracy.” Along with the Alabama football coach and NBA Hall of Famer, the other signers of the letter were former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck and former NFL linebacker Darryl Talley.

“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 states. 

Democrats are fighting for two voting bills that are floundering in the Senate. Both measures — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Act — have passed the House but are unlikely to get through the Senate without changes to its filibuster rules. Mr. Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both said they oppose changing the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote threshold to end debate and vote on a bill, for the election measures.

Last week, Mr. Manchin reiterated in a statement that he will not vote to “eliminate or weaken” the filibuster. 

“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel onto the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart – especially when one party controls both Congress and the White House,” read the statement. 

The Freedom to Vote Act would require states to offer same-day voter registration, make Election Day a national holiday and mandate 15 days of early voting. It also would require universal vote-by-mail, create a taxpayer-backed public-financing system for House elections and impose new restrictions on the ability of states to draw their electoral districts.

The John Lewis Voting Act would grant the Department of Justice sweeping new powers to oversee state elections. In some cases, according to the bill, states would even have to secure the DOJ’s approval before implementing new voting laws.

Mr. Saban, a longtime friend of Mr. Manchin, was born in Fairmont, West Virginia. The political stance is rare for the seven-time national champion. 

“I’ve never endorsed a candidate, nor will I ever endorse a candidate or get involved in politics in any way, shape or form. I don’t think that’s my place,” Mr. Saban told reporters in 2020.

Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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