One day after the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) was expected to hear two cases threatening to unleash “the most aggressive attacks on the right to vote to reach the Supreme Court in the post-Jim Crow era,” the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed what The Guardian is reporting to be “the largest overhaul of the US election law in at least a generation.”
House Resolution 1 (HR1), or the “For the People Act,” passed the House 220-210.
Now on its way to the Senate, the legislation intends to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”
Specifically, it seeks, in part, to:
- Include providing voters access to automatic and same-day registration
- Fully restore the VRA
- Allow a two-week early- voting window that includes evenings and weekends
- Create a small-donor matching system that provides qualified presidential and congressional candidates $6 in public funds for every $1 raised from small donors
- Close federal campaign disclosure rule loopholes
- Curtail foreign funds in U.S. elections
- Address issues at the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
- Guarantee states use independent redistricting commissions when drawing congressional districts whose members represent diverse communities
- Establish fair redistricting standards and mandate better transparency in the redistricting process
- Require states replace paperless voting machines
- Offer new grants to enhance election security
- Develop more effective systems for auditing disputed elections
- Implement new security requirements for election system vendors that includes a mandate to report cybersecurity breaches.
Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, holding the seat the late Civil Rights-era icon John Lewis held, stated:
“[The bill] will put a stop at the voter suppression that we’re seeing debated right now. This bill is the ‘Good Trouble’ he [Lewis] fought for his entire life.”
HR1 was first introduced in 2019, but did not have the urgency it now shares after years of Donald Trump and Republicans at the state and federal level working to make it harder for Americans to vote, particularly those of color.
A full breakdown of its sweeping provisions can be found here.
The House also passed the most ambitious police reform initiative in decades on Wednesday.
The “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” originally slated for a vote on Thursday but moved up due to the threat of violence on the Capitol from QAnon supporters, seeks to:
- Lower the criminal intent standard from “willful” to “knowing” or “reckless” in order to federally prosecute a police officer for misconduct;
- Limit the qualified immunity defense in private civil action against law enforcement or state correctional officers;
- Authorize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue subpoenas when investigating police departments’ patterns of discrimination.
- Create a National Police Misconduct Registry for complaints and records of police misconduct;
- Establish a plan to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels;
- Requires law enforcement officers and agencies to report data on use-of-force incidents, receive training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and wear body cameras
Of course, the real fight is in the Senate.
Despite holding a narrow majority there as well, Democrats require a 60-vote supermajority to subvert a Republican filibuster.
That means at least 10 Republican senators have to break ranks.
Is that possible?
Possible, but not probable.
This does not mean Democrats are pursuing a fool’s errand.
The majority of the American people support progressive legislation on myriad issues, police reform high among them after a tumultuous summer of Black Lives Matter protests following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and Elijah McClain.
Democrats have until next year’s mid-term elections to roll up their sleeves and pass progressive legislation nearly impossible under the prior Senate.
If they do it right, if they go bold, like the American people need, they might avoid the mid-term rout that traditionally descends on the majority party.
That would put them–and the nation–in a winning stance for 2024, when rising stars of the fascist wing of the Republican party will be seeking the GOP nomination.
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