University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has co-signed a letter to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) commending him for his support of the so-called “Freedom to Vote Act.”
Saban joined four other prominent sports figures in co-signing the letter. The list includes NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, as well as former NFL players Darryl Talley and Oliver Luck.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has offered a bill that combines portions of the “Freedom to Vote Act” with the “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” Versions of both bills have been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republicans say the sweeping legislation would federalize the elections process which has been traditionally delegated to state legislatures. Many conservatives view the legislation as an attempt to undermine election integrity laws passed by Republican-led states.
The White House embarked on an aggressive push for voting reform legislation. President Joe Biden last week blasted those who stand in opposition to the federal overhaul by likening opponents to individuals who were hostile to the civil rights movement. Biden’s racially-charged rhetoric on the issue has been widely criticized by both sides of the aisle.
Regarding the standalone “Freedom to Vote Act,” the sweeping measure calls for same-day voter registration, a mandated early-voting window and the expansion of absentee mail-in voting to all registered voters. The legislation also significantly weakens voter identification laws by allowing individuals to use debit cards, utility bills and other documents in lieu of government-issued IDs.
If enacted, contributions to congressional candidates would be matched up to $200 in federal funds at a 6:1 ratio.
The Democrat-sponsored legislation has met a substantial roadblock as Manchin and U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who support the efforts, have committed to upholding the Senate’s filibuster rules which require a 60-vote threshold to pass most bills.
Saban and the letter’s co-signers write to Machin to convey their support for what they call “urgently needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of outcomes in all Federal elections.”
“The Freedom to Vote Act, which you sponsored with Committee Chair Senator Klobuchar and other colleagues, effectively addressed these goals,” the letter reads. “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.”
— Anthony Adragna (@AnthonyAdragna) January 18, 2022
“So we are united now in urging Congress to exercise its Constitutional responsibility to enact laws that set national standards for the conduct of Federal elections and for decisions that determine election outcomes,” the letter continues. “We commend you for ensuring such that legislation rests on critical features of our Constitution. These guarantee that all Americans have an equal voice in our democracy and that Federal elections are conducted with integrity so that the votes of all eligible voters determine the election outcomes.”
Saban, a West Virginia native, was featured in a reelection ad for Manchin touting the senator as a long-time friend of his.
Update January 19, 8:25 a.m.:
According to CNN, a footnote was excluded from the letter which outlined Saban’s position regarding the filibuster.
The footnote reads, “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 this Democracy. The others signing this letter take no position on this aspect of Senate policies.”
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL