Dems draft Freedom to Vote Act. DOJ seeks pause on Texas abortion law. Haiti PM fires prosecutor who accused him in president’s assassination.
Dems draft new voter protections bill to counter states’ restrictions
A group of Congressional Democrats have drafted a new bill that would create federal standards and protections for voting rights. The law is meant to counter restrictions in various red states that critics say disenfranchise people of color and other marginalized groups. Among other things, the Freedom to Vote Act:
- Makes election day a national holiday,
- Requires states to offer same day registration by 2024,
- Establishes national standards for early and mail-in voting,
- Establish automatic voter registration programs,
- Requires states to follow specific criteria when drawing up new Congressional districts to prevent partisan gerrymandering,
- Mandates disclosures of donors to “dark money” groups who fund politicians’ campaigns.
Some news outlets have reported that the bill includes a national voter ID requirement. That is not the case. What the bill does it standardize what forms of documents are acceptable as voter ID in states that choose to require voter ID. States that do not require voter ID will not be forced to do so.
Compromises and hurdles
To appease the so-called “moderate” Democrats, the committee left out campaign finance and ethics-related provisions that had been included in the previously proposed For the People Act. One of those was a provision to match funds from small dollar donations at a 6:1 ratio. This would have helped level the playing field for primary challengers of a party’s establishment candidates. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, one of the co-sponsors of the Freedom to Vote Act, likely had a hand in these omissions. Manchin had previously supported the John Lewis Act (which did not include those provisions) in opposition to the For the People Act.
Still, the bill contains provisions that would effectively protect voter access and reverse states’ efforts to limit access.
However, the bill may yet come to nothing since it is improbable that 10 Republicans will sign onto it and overcome the filibuster. Despite his role in drafting the Freedom to Vote Act, Manchin hasn’t yet signaled any willingness to withdraw his objections to filibuster reforms which would allow the bill to pass.
Justice Department seeks temporary block on Texas abortion law
Last week, the Department of Justice filed a challenge to Texas’ new Heartbeat Act (or S.B. 8) in a federal court in Austin. The DOJ is now filing an emergency motion requesting that the same judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, place a temporary injunction on the law while the legal review moves forward. If Pitman approves the DOJ’s motion, this would temporarily prevent any party from suing anyone who aids a woman in getting an abortion. It’s not clear yet when we can expect a decision from Pitman, or how long such an injunction would hold.
The DOJ contends that S.B. 8 unconstitutionally denies women the right to an abortion before the point of fetal viability (about 24 weeks). The law therefore violates half a century of Supreme Court precedent.
The DOJ also claims that S.B. 8 unlawfully impedes federal workers from performing certain functions of their work.
Haiti PM replaces prosecutor who wanted him charged in president’s slaying
Yesterday, Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude asked that Haitian PM Ariel Henry be prevented from leaving the country and charged in connection with the July slaying of President Jovenel Moïse. Just hours after, Henry swore in Claude’s replacement, Frantz Louis Juste. It’s unclear whether Claude’s firing became official before or after he made his request to the judge.
Henry’s letter to Claude informing the latter of his dismissal cited an unspecified “serious administrative offense” as grounds for firing.
Under Haitian law, judges are ultimately responsible for conduction murder investigations rather than prosecutors. It’s not clear whether the judge approved or accepted Claude’s request to bar Henry from leaving the country.
Claude had requested that Henry meet with him to discuss why Henry had twice communicated with a person of interest in Moïse’s slaying just a few hours after the murder took place. That person of interest was a justice official, who is now in hiding.
Despite having detained dozens of suspects in the days after Moïse’s killing, investigators have not yet come up with a cogent theory as to the motives for the assassination or who was ultimately behind it. Analysts believe that Claude’s accusations are an act of political theater rather than an indication of any damning evidence of Henry’s involvement.
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