New veterans coalition has message for Senator Manchin

These veterans want to change Senator Manchin's opinion on the For the People Act.
These veterans want to change Senator Manchin's opinion on the For the People Act.(Laura Bowen)
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 11:32 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - The West Virginia Veterans for Democracy Coalition launched Monday - and their panel had a message for Senator Manchin.

A panel of veterans took turns sharing emotional stories. The main point being driven home was their support for the For the People Act - a bill supporters have championed as a shield against voting infringements.

Lead Organizer Sammi Brown said, “...if you’re going to say you believe in service and you thank us for it then you should also be able to thank us for our opinions and perspective and ultimately our voice.”

Senator Manchin, however, has labeled the bill a partisan power grab - citing the bill’s treatment of the filibuster as an example.

These veterans want to change his opinion.

One issue brought up was big money influencing politics.

“What we’re seeing is these dark money interests, right? That have more say over someone who’s empowered to vote at a homeless shelter,” a veteran said.

Another issue brought up were concerns surrounding how voting restrictions could impact disabled vets who can’t make it to the polls.

“Many of us can’t drive, can’t physically stand in line, or just can’t face a crowded polling place because of PTSD or they have a developed autoimmune disease,” a veteran said.

Other issues like gerrymandering were covered as well.

Not everyone, however, sees the bill as the path to protecting voting rights.

Roger Conley of the Wood County Republican Party said, “To start with let me just say that the For the People Act is extremely misleading in itself. I would submit and my party would submit to you that this indeed is not for the people.”

Conley has many concerns about the bill - a major one being that he fears it will open the gates to illegal votes being counted.

“We want voter identification. We want to see signature verification,” he said.

Conley also questions the security of drop boxes.

However this doesn’t mean he’s against absentee ballots.

He said, “The absentee balloting is for the shut-ins that can’t get out, the absentee balloting is for our military heroes that may be serving out of this country to make sure that they’re able to vote.”

Still, some have voiced concerns about how restricted mail-in voting can force people in areas with not many available polls to wait in long lines.

Conley’s response to that is...

“If it is a medical reason that the doctor says they need to have an absentee ballot, then that’s totally, totally understandable. I think that’s what it’s meant for.”

Both sides are clear on what their message is.

Conley said, “What we all want is to see that every legal vote is counted.”

Disabled veteran and coalition-member Rodney Wilson said, “My message is, Senator Manchin, I’m watching, all West Virginians are waiting. Do the right thing.”

According to Brown, over 50 people have signed on to their letter to Senator Manchin and the hope is the launch will add on more.

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