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Nick Saban and Jerry West sign letter pushing West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to support voting rights bill

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Alabama coach Nick Saban and NBA legend Jerry West are among five prominent West Virginia sports figures pushing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) to support the Freedom to Vote Act.

Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have refused to support making a filibuster exception for the voting rights bill. A bill can be filibustered in the Senate if it doesn't have 60 votes; if the voting rights bill was exempt from the filibuster and Manchin and Sinema voted for it, the bill would pass a 50-50 Senate by virtue of a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

The letter, also signed by former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, urges “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.”

An excerpt of the letter is below. You can view it in full here.

Elections open to all Americans: Our democracy is at its best when all Americans are encouraged to participate. We support measures to provide voters with arange of opportunities to obtain and cast a lawful ballot, including robust in-person, early, and absentee voting options. We support the use of election security, equipment and record-keeping measures that are reliable and evidence-based, and clearly support the integrity of election processes.

Impartial conduct and score-keeping. Election administration and vote certification must be nonpartisan, professional and transparent. State legislators and other officials cannot apply or change rules, standards or procedures, prospectively or retroactively, in amanner that may nullify Federal election results by excluding voters or overruling voter choices.

The voting rights bill would allow for no-excuse absentee voting, expand the voter registration process and make Election Day a federal holiday among other provisions. Republicans have been mostly united in their opposition to the bill and a filibuster exception for it.

There is a footnote at the bottom of the letter that says Saban "is not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate." That footnote, however, does not specify if Saban is specifically referencing an exception for the voting rights bill or the concept of the filibuster in general.

West and Saban supported Manchin's re-election bid

The letter is perhaps the most outspoken the most successful coach in modern college football has ever been regarding politics, though Saban and West have been longtime supporters of Manchin, a Democratic senator in a state that former president Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points in 2020. Saban was born in West Virginia and West stayed in his home state to play basketball at West Virginia before he was chosen with the No. 2 pick in the 1960 NBA draft.

Saban, West and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins endorsed Manchin in an ad a month before his re-elction in November of 2018. Saban, who said he grew up with Manchin in the ad, spoke glowingly of the senator in the commercial. Manchin, 74, has been in the Senate since 2010 and is one of the most conservative Democrats in the legislative body.