Senator Joe Manchin has decided he is not running for re-election, and he has indicated he is open to the possibility of running for president on a third-party ticket.
What he’s doing in between is still taking shape, but on local West Virginia radio appearances Manchin has described an interest in electoral reforms like term limits or ranked choice voting that could shake up the system and bolster the political middle.
“I’ve been invited to different areas up in different battleground states, just to be able to speak to different groups and if I can get them what you should be looking for,” Manchin said on “Watchdog Radio” in the Wheeling area.
“I know that a third-party candidate, myself or anyone else who wants to jump into that fray is really a long shot. But if you can get a movement to where you can move the two established parties, the Democrat and Republican, back to where their roots are, where they’ve come from and what they’ve been able to produce over all these years, they can get back to some normality.”
Manchin also has been linked with No Labels, an independent political organization trying to gain ballot access across the country to put up a “unity ticket” as an alternative to the possibility of a Biden-Trump rematch.
On the rounds of West Virginia radio this week, he described an interest in electoral reforms, including term limits.
“We have nobody demanding any type of accountability from the people that have been serving us and I’ve come to the conclusion: I believe in term limits,” Manchin said on “Watchdog Radio.”
“I’ve never been a big supporter of term limits because I thought, there’s so many good people with so much experience to really be helpful. But I don’t know if that’s the fact any more so I’ve said, hey, wouldn’t it be great if we had one 18-year term for the Supreme Court? One 18-year term, that’s it. One six-year term for the president so you don’t have to worry about re-election. Don’t worry about getting re-elected; just get in there and do the right thing.”
Manchin envisions a limit of two 6-year terms for the Senate and two 6-year terms for the House of Representatives.
“That would be more than enough,” he said. “How are you going to change the root problem if you’ve got out of 435 congressional districts, 390 are not competitive. This is already cooked. The Democrat or Republican is going to win those.”
Manchin, a lifelong Democrat, is brainstorming other changes that could make primary elections more competitive. He is intrigued by ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, a system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.
“If you can’t change redistricting, how politicians are drawing their district lines to protect ideology, whether it be a D or an R, why don’t we look at how we elect in the primary, get more competition in the primary,” said Manchin, who was West Virginia’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State, from 2000 to 2004.
“Right now you can’t compete in the system we have because it’s a closed system. You only have a duopoly of Democrat and Republican; you have very little activity.”
He noted that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of Manchin’s regular centrist bargaining partners, who won re-election last year in a ranked-choice voting system.
“I never even knew about ranked choice voting primaries,” Manchin said. “I’m learning more and more about it. I want to know more about it. I want to know different opportunities. Open primaries, you can go in and do what you want, you can cross over.
“You can give a person who might not have a chance because they come from a political party that’s, like in West Virginia, the super minority of the Democratic Party in West Virginia and used to be that way for Republicans. Having a crossover primary, maybe that would help. There’s so much you could do.”
Manchin described similar ideas about possible reforms during an appearance on “Panhandle Live” on WEPM Radio.
“Can you change how we, basically, draw our district lines, the gerrymandering and affixing the lines to the political will and wishes of the party. If you can’t do that, change the primary system to how you elect, open primaries, more people have an opportunity,” Manchin said.
In West Virginia, both Republicans and Democrats allow unaffiliated voters to participate in party primaries — although party members must vote in their own party’s primary.
Manchin again described his interest in ranked choice voting.
“I never knew much about that. The only thing I knew, this past election, two years ago, was that my dear friend Lisa Murkowski from Alaska would not have gotten elected if it hadn’t been for that primary that gave a different way of calculating and having the best candidate be able to rise to the top even though they might have been out-gunned, out-positioned or out-moneyed.
“So you start looking at that: Can you shake it up? Can you change it?”
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