I have lived in West Virginia all my life. I grew up in Clay County, in Clay (population 491), and can tell you the names of every police officer in our town and the name of every grocer in our grocery store. And as a West Virginian, I have also lived a life full of people from outside our state telling us what would be best for us, particularly when it comes to our unique politics.
Our state has been in the national spotlight recently, especially since the Freedom To Vote Act is back on the Senate’s agenda. This has led to a deluge of opinions on what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. I believe all my fellow West Virginians can agree that we know what is best for West Virginia.
This Wednesday, One Nation, a dark money group linked to Senator Mitch McConnell, released a 12-day, $1 million ad campaign here in West Virginia. The ad urges West Virginians to call Senator Manchin and ask him to, “Protect the Senate filibuster.” Respectfully, Senator McConnell, we are more concerned with protecting West Virginia voices than yours. The best way to do that is through the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act, a bill that has majority support from West Virginia voters, and which One Nation is trying to block.
Over $1 billion in dark money was spent at the national level in the 2020 election, mostly benefiting Democrats, and more than $125 million of that was from One Nation, according to Open Secrets. Dark money, or secret election spending, increasingly influences our elections, and big money donors increasingly are able to buy off our politicians and write the laws that dictate our lives. We will never truly be free as long as this system of legalized corruption is allowed to continue. Political corruption leads to massive problems for our state, such as the opioid epidemic and the dramatic loss of jobs we’ve experienced over the past few decades, and causes West Virginia voices to go unheard. In other words, our democracy is under attack by dark money, and we have reached a breaking point. The Freedom To Vote Act would fix these issues and ensure a transparent process we can trust.
This bill, which our very own Senator Manchin is a lead co-sponsor of, is full of common-sense ideas that are good for West Virginia. It will end partisan gerrymandering, shine a light on dark money, and make it easier for our veterans and the elderly to vote. These provisions would amplify the voices of West Virginians, not drown them out. We are running out of time to fix our broken democracy, and Senator Manchin understands this: he has said “inaction is not an option” when it comes to protecting our democracy from dark money and attacks on our freedom to vote.
Groups like One Nation do not know what is best for West Virginia, and the irony of a dark money group trying to prevent the elimination of dark money is not lost on us. Corporate elites like Senator McConnell are doing everything they can to ensure the Freedom To Vote Act does not pass, even going as far as to try and influence West Virginian voters through misinformation ads. These politicians, representing their corporate donors rather than working Americans, benefit from the broken status quo that we currently live with, and are perfectly fine with our elections continuing to be influenced by dark money.
West Virginians have a strong history of standing up for ourselves, and this moment will be no different. We know what is best for our state, and we do not want dark money groups sponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell to try and influence us. Senator Manchin, we’ve got your back, and we must pass your bill by any means necessary. The passage of the Freedom to Vote Act is crucial to our country and our state. This is why I, and the majority of your constituents, support and encourage you to pass the Freedom To Vote Act as soon as possible.
Haley Jones is a resident of Clay, WV, a recent Marshall University graduate, and Organizing Manager with Un-PAC West Virginia.