A Texas Federal Lawsuit May Lead To Online Voter Registration

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Texas is one of a handful of states nationwide that currently does not offer online voter registration. That may soon change, thanks to a recent ruling by federal Judge Orlando Garcia.

The Lone Star State permits people to renew their driver’s license online but does not allow them to register to vote at the same time. On May 10, Garcia gave the state 45 days to develop an online voter registration plan.

In his ruling, Garcia said the state’s online registration system violates the motor-voter provision in the National Voter Registration Act. Users are sent from the Department of Public Safety’s page to a separate page operated by the Texas secretary of state, where they are required to download a voter registration form, print it out, fill it out and then mail it to their county registrar.

Currently, Texas residents are able to register to vote in person at Department of Public Safety offices statewide, but not when they renew their driver’s licenses online. More than 1.5 million Texans use the web for driver’s license transactions each year.

Texas Civil Rights Project lawyers have developed a seven-page list of solutions giving DPS 45 days to develop a system that would ask online users if they would like to register to vote or to update their address on voter rolls on every driver’s license transaction.

That information would be sent by DPS to the secretary of state’s office, which would then forward it to local voter registrar’s offices.

Supporters of online voter registration say it would ease workloads in county voter registration offices and would eliminate both labor and postage costs that come along with contacting voters who do not completely fill out the registration cards. And, since voters would be responsible for entering their information themselves, that would make it more accurate, advocates say.

However, state lawyers are now arguing that those fixes are unworkable and go beyond what federal law mandates. They also contend that 45 days is not enough time to update online procedures.

Full online voter registration in Texas would require approval by the state legislator. The bill would then require the signature of the governor. Thirty-seven states currently offer online voter registration. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have also approved automatic voter registration legislation.

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A Texas Federal Lawsuit May Lead To Online Voter Registration

Abogado Aly Recent Blog Post

Texas is one of a handful of states nationwide that currently does not offer online voter registration. That may soon change, thanks to a recent ruling by federal Judge Orlando Garcia.

The Lone Star State permits people to renew their driver’s license online but does not allow them to register to vote at the same time. On May 10, Garcia gave the state 45 days to develop an online voter registration plan.

In his ruling, Garcia said the state’s online registration system violates the motor-voter provision in the National Voter Registration Act. Users are sent from the Department of Public Safety’s page to a separate page operated by the Texas secretary of state, where they are required to download a voter registration form, print it out, fill it out and then mail it to their county registrar.

Currently, Texas residents are able to register to vote in person at Department of Public Safety offices statewide, but not when they renew their driver’s licenses online. More than 1.5 million Texans use the web for driver’s license transactions each year.

Texas Civil Rights Project lawyers have developed a seven-page list of solutions giving DPS 45 days to develop a system that would ask online users if they would like to register to vote or to update their address on voter rolls on every driver’s license transaction.

That information would be sent by DPS to the secretary of state’s office, which would then forward it to local voter registrar’s offices.

Supporters of online voter registration say it would ease workloads in county voter registration offices and would eliminate both labor and postage costs that come along with contacting voters who do not completely fill out the registration cards. And, since voters would be responsible for entering their information themselves, that would make it more accurate, advocates say.

However, state lawyers are now arguing that those fixes are unworkable and go beyond what federal law mandates. They also contend that 45 days is not enough time to update online procedures.

Full online voter registration in Texas would require approval by the state legislator. The bill would then require the signature of the governor. Thirty-seven states currently offer online voter registration. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have also approved automatic voter registration legislation.

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Is Access to Cell Phone Data Without a Warrant a Violation of the Fourth Amendment?

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Technology advances so quickly that the courts have little hope of keeping up. Cases involving new technologies take years to make their way to the high court. During that time period, lower courts are often bound by precedents related to already outmoded technologies. A sort of legal limbo occurs, where litigants, lawyers, and the public remain uncertain about the law.

 

Though law enforcement and prosecutors have been using cellphone evidence for two decades, the Supreme Court has yet to make a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless access to a defendant’s cellphone data. The question will finally be decided later this year, when the supreme court issues its ruling on Carpenter v. United States. The court’s ruling will decide whether Carpenter’s fourth amendment rights were violated when the FBI obtained his cellphone records without a warrant and used them as evidence against him.

 

The Carpenter Case

 

In April, 2011, Carpenter was arrested for robbery, along with three other men. One of the other suspects confessed and provided the FBI with the phone numbers of the other suspects, including Carpenter’s. The FBI applied for and received a magistrate’s order for Carpenter’s cellphone’s transactional records, which show his calls and the locations and times he made them. Based partially on this evidence, Carpenter was convicted of robbery.

 

He appealed, and the sixth circuit federal court affirmed his conviction. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in his case and, as of June 4th, 2018, he is awaiting the decision.

 

The case’s impact

 

The Carpenter case is widely expected to provide the definitive answer to whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant for cellphone data. In Carpenter’s case, he argues that the magistrate’s order was not enough to meet constitutional requirements. His lawyers believe that the fourth amendment, when it states citizens have the right to privacy in their personal effects, includes cellphone data.

 

Courts have a history of looking backwards for guidance in technology-related cases, which often results in the court basing its decision on an analogy. For example, a tablet could be compared to a notebook in terms of determining if the data on the tablet constituted protected data. The court now will struggle to determine how the framers of the constitution would view the seizure of Carpenter’s phone records.

 

Legal experts anxiously await the decision. Many courts, as seen from the Carpenter case, lean toward law-enforcement’s view that the constitution provides no protection for cellphone records. When the court rules, a definitive standard will apply across the U.S.

 

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Is Access to Cell Phone Data Without a Warrant a Violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Abogado Aly Most Recent Blog Post

Technology advances so quickly that the courts have little hope of keeping up. Cases involving new technologies take years to make their way to the high court. During that time period, lower courts are often bound by precedents related to already outmoded technologies. A sort of legal limbo occurs, where litigants, lawyers, and the public remain uncertain about the law.

 

Though law enforcement and prosecutors have been using cellphone evidence for two decades, the Supreme Court has yet to make a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of warrantless access to a defendant’s cellphone data. The question will finally be decided later this year, when the supreme court issues its ruling on Carpenter v. United States. The court’s ruling will decide whether Carpenter’s fourth amendment rights were violated when the FBI obtained his cellphone records without a warrant and used them as evidence against him.

 

The Carpenter Case

 

In April, 2011, Carpenter was arrested for robbery, along with three other men. One of the other suspects confessed and provided the FBI with the phone numbers of the other suspects, including Carpenter’s. The FBI applied for and received a magistrate’s order for Carpenter’s cellphone’s transactional records, which show his calls and the locations and times he made them. Based partially on this evidence, Carpenter was convicted of robbery.

 

He appealed, and the sixth circuit federal court affirmed his conviction. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in his case and, as of June 4th, 2018, he is awaiting the decision.

 

The case’s impact

 

The Carpenter case is widely expected to provide the definitive answer to whether law enforcement must obtain a warrant for cellphone data. In Carpenter’s case, he argues that the magistrate’s order was not enough to meet constitutional requirements. His lawyers believe that the fourth amendment, when it states citizens have the right to privacy in their personal effects, includes cellphone data.

 

Courts have a history of looking backwards for guidance in technology-related cases, which often results in the court basing its decision on an analogy. For example, a tablet could be compared to a notebook in terms of determining if the data on the tablet constituted protected data. The court now will struggle to determine how the framers of the constitution would view the seizure of Carpenter’s phone records.

 

Legal experts anxiously await the decision. Many courts, as seen from the Carpenter case, lean toward law-enforcement’s view that the constitution provides no protection for cellphone records. When the court rules, a definitive standard will apply across the U.S.

 

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5 Employee Rights you Should Know About

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5 Employee Rights you Should Know About

Businesses owners and managers need to pay attention to their employees. Although your work to create a healthy, productive work environment matters, you can hurt yourself if you ignore the legal and regulatory requirements that affect your firm as an employer.

Failure to discover and fulfill your obligations can result in civil and legal penalties that can negatively impact your ability to do business. The following five employee rights will remind you of some of your basic responsibilities as an employer.

Privacy

Although employers have a right to monitor employees as they do their work, your employees still have a right to privacy regarding their personal possessions. These rights extend to handbags, briefcases, and lockers. They also apply to mail that is personally addressed to employees.

Also, you should be aware that employees may have privacy regarding their telephone calls and voicemail messages. However, practically no protections exist for the way employees use your business’ computers, network and internet connection.

Fair compensation

Labor laws require that you must pay your employees in a fair and equitable way that at least approximates industry norms. However, you must pay employees within your organization similar wages if they do similar work. If you follow this guideline, you will protect yourself from allegations of gender, age, and race-based discrimination.

Hiring practices

Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating in the hiring of workers based on their race, religion, sex or nationality. Some laws may also forbid you from discriminating based on sexual preferences. Generally speaking, you should hire based on the knowledge, skills and other capabilities of an applicant.

Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits your firm from discriminating against qualified candidates with certain disabilities. Also, “reasonable accommodation” rules mean that you must take reasonable measures to ensure that disabled team members have equal access to your facility and work areas.

Age Discrimination

Laws prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants and employees who are more than 40 years old. However, these rules don’t work in reverse, so you can favor older employees over younger ones.

You’ve just reviewed five important rights that employees have. Now, it’s up to you to take the next step and learn more about employment law and the federal, state, and local regulations that affect your business.

 

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The ACLU Effect on Crime and Policing

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Chicago citizens and police officers have always had something of a tense relationship. The residents of the city have complained of mistreatment from law enforcement due to racial biases; meanwhile, police officers and first responders are desperately trying to keep bad guys off the streets to keep good guys, their stuff, and the city at large safe.

Starting in 2011 with the untimely death of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement renewed public interest in police brutality and the safety of inner city residents against the force of police who may be entering scenes with ill intentions and racial prejudices. Calls for mandatory body cameras and more transparency during police-civilian interactions that left people dead have taken up a permanent dwelling on social media and at every political rally.

With the tide of public opinion turning against police officers, the prison system, and law enforcement at large, many police precincts are up against steep odds for increasing their budgets during local votes and reminding citizens that they exist to keep streets safe, not to purposefully hurt or terrorize people.

Nonetheless, the ACLU and the Chicago PD struck a once-in-a-lifetime agreement that both sides hoped to benefit from, the former, fewer cases of police misconduct, and the latter, better public support. In particular, the ACLU was interested in putting an end to controversial “stop and frisk” laws that were intended to allow police to be proactive in getting guns and drugs off the streets, but were generally racially biased in execution, leading to numerous court cases. As per the truce, officers have been instructed to meticulously document each and every interaction they have so that a file is prepared if and when the ACLU has to respond to claims of police brutality. Naturally, with the pressure to catalog every traffic stop and stop-and-frisk, the number of both has dramatically decreased. 

In a landmark study recently released from the University of Utah, though, researchers Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles blamed what they call the “ACLU Effect” for Chicago’s 58% increase in homicides in 2016, a peak even for the troubled city itself. The former a professor of law and the latter an economist, the two set out to create an econometric model that accounted for all the possible variables that lead to an increase in homicides in the city, and time and time again, they continued to be struck by the “ACLU Effect,” or the fact that increased paperwork lead to an 82% decrease in traffic stops and stop-and-frisks. Naturally, the ACLU has come out staunchly opposed to the study’s findings and note that it’s more important for the police force to function constitutionally than for them to play fast-and-loose with people’s lives.

This isn’t the first time cities have had to evaluate the efficacy of stop-and-frisk policies. In the 1990s, the “Broken Windows Theory” said, in essence, that decay and neglect beget more decay and neglect. As such, if communities clamp down on smaller infractions like turnstile jumping, graffiti, prostitution, and selling loose cigarettes, then they could reduce the downstream crime. Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City and the champion of broken windows theory and boasted that his officers’ ruthlessness on petty crime leads to the decrease in New York City homicides.

This “Broken Windows Policing” had some fans, and a 2001 paper noted that in areas of NYC that saw spikes in misdemeanor arrests also saw sharp reductions in violent crimes. However, upon further review, the 2001 study omitted some important information that rendered it almost wholly irredeemable. Most notably, the study failed to account for “reversion to the mean,” or the tendency for large spikes in anything — stock prices, crime rates, etc — tend to be followed by large dips back down to a mean amount. While yes, crime in New York did fall under Giuliani’s administration, that likely would have happened with or without stop and frisk policies.

As more and more media outlets pick up the story of the ACLU Effect, we’ll see who can offer additional information or potential solutions. In the end, everyone in Chicago wants to see a reduction in crime, and the ACLU and the Chicago PD may have to reevaluate how they can join forces to do so with the best interests of the citizens in mind.

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Texas and the Case of Illegal Voting

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During the 2016 election cycle that included the presidential ballot, voting rights took center stage as November 8 drew closer. Many contenders who ran on the Republican ticket called for stricter legislation on who could and couldn’t vote as a case-in-point against undocumented immigrants enjoying rights and privileges usually reserved for US citizens only. As many may recall, immigration policy and reform was a pivotal point during debates and interviews, and calling for a closer watch on non-citizens attempting to vote galvanized voters who wanted to see tightened practices for immigrants without legal standing.

On election day, reporters and election watchers hawked polling places, chomping at the bit to break a story about a non-citizen attempting to vote or catch someone in the act of trying to vote twice. All the fervor yielded very little in terms of headlines, and ultimately, the President even disbanded his “voter fraud” commission, as it proved to be a waste of time and resources. However, a few stories made headlines. In one, a woman attempted to cast two ballots for now-President Trump and was stopped in the act. In a more calamitous story, though, a woman from Texas was sentenced to five years in prison for voting when she shouldn’t have because of a prior crime.

Voting rights for convicted felons has long been a sticking point. A state-level law, some states are more lenient with their felons and allow them some voting rights if they’ve made it through their probation cleanly and avoid a life of crime. In others, though, felons are essentially banned from voting for life. On the one hand, this functions as a deterrent to would-be criminals to keep them from breaking their social contract. On the other hand, though, many politicians don’t want felons to vote because of they way they would vote, most notably against increasing funding for police officers and in favor of more relaxed laws on crime. Florida has made recent headlines as activists there are trying to repeal some of the nation’s toughest law against felons voting and

In this specific case, Crystal Mason, a 43 year old Black resident of Texas, cast a ballot on November 8 despite the fact that she was still on probation for a tax fraud felony of which she’d been convicted. Not finding her name on the voter roll, Mason filed a provisional ballot and was subsequently arrested for illegal voting. At the trial, she reiterated time and time again that she was voting in good conscious and did not intend to make a statement or break the law. However, the prosecution produced numerous documents Mason had signed saying she could not vote again until her probation had been served in full. She has been sentenced 5 years for her crime.

Across the US, the punishment for such a crime has come nowhere close for others who were found guilty of voting when they weren’t supposed to. NPR reported that two Nebraskan men struck a deal for $10,000 after they were charged with voting multiple times in local elections. Texas has stepped up its punishment of illegal voting and has used Crystal Mason’s case to make an example for others considering voting when they shouldn’t. However, Mason is appealing the case, and voting rights activists are calling for governments to encourage voting, not scare people out of it even more. Among developed nations, the US ranks one of the lowest in voter turnout, and yet, more and more governments, both federal and state, are trying to make it harder to vote, not easier.

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