Daily Archives: February 5, 2013

Voting Flaws Widespread

If you read my Minnesota Lawyer – JD Rising article, accessed here, you will know that there are a lot of voting problems that affect voters.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a major new study which shoes that the flaws in the American election system are deep and widespread.  You can see the results via an interactive tool here.  The full brief can be accessed here.

The Pew Charitable Trusts ranked 50 states on 17 indicators, including but not limited to wait times, lost votes, problems with absentee and provisional ballots.  The study is based on data from the 2008 and 2010 elections.

The problematic findings are as follows.

  • Some states lost very few votes thanks to shortcomings in voting technology and voter confusion.  The best reporting failure rates was of 0.5% or less in 2008.  West Virginia’s rate was 3.2%.
  • Voter registration rejections varied.  North Dakota does not require voter registration, and Alabama and Kansas reported rejecting less than 0.05% of the applications in 2008.  Pennsylvania and Indiana each rejected more than half of the registration applications.
  • Arizona and California had the highest rates of problems with voter registration and absentee ballots.  In 2010, California rejected 0.7% absentee ballots, a higher rate than any other state.
  • In Colorado, where 70% of the voters cast ballots by mail in 2012, rejected 0.4% of ballots in 2010.
  • Nationwide, a bit over 1% of voters are given a provisional ballot.  In Arizona, the rate in 2008 was of 6.5%.  In Ohio, it was 3.6%.

Some of the other findings state:

  • In 2008, the 10 states with the shortest times had waits on average of fewer than 6 minutes.  South Carolina had the longest wait times of just over an hour.  Georgia had more than 37 minutes.
  • Only 8 States provided all possible voter lookup tools (Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin).  Only 2 States had no information at all (California and Vermont).
  • Six of the 10 states with the lowest rates of nonvoting due to registration problems (Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) have allowed Election Day registration for at least two decades.  North Dakota does not require voter registration.
  • The high performers are: Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • The low performers are: Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

 

via U.S. Voting Flaws Are Widespread, Study Shows – NYTimes.com.

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Update on NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of Muslim groupds

Are Muslim communities being unfairly targeted by law enforcement?  This is the conversation being raised after the New York Civil Liberties Union sought to revisit a 41-year old case.

You may have heard about news articles discussing NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of New York-based Muslim groups.  Last year, the Associated Press confirmed the existence of a program, called the Assessment Program, formerly known as the Demographics Unit, which spied on Muslims.

As way of background, in 1985, a Manhattan federal judge ordered a consent decree (known as “Handschu guidelines”) whereby the police is barred from investigating political and religious organizations without “specific information” linking the group to a crime.  In that case, Handschu v. Special Services Division, the police had extensive dossiers on a large array of political groups, including the Black Panthers.

After 9-11, the judge loosened the Handschu guidelines to give police wider powers to investigate political groups in the war on terror.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a memorandum, submitted to the court, seeking to end the NYPD’s Assessment Program.  In the memorandum there is testimony stating that an informant was paid as much as $1,500 a month to take part in the NYPD’s alleged “create and capture” program.  The informant stated,

This meant I was to pretend to be a devout Muslim and start an inflammatory conversation about jihad or terrorism and then capture the respond to sent to the NYPD.

I did this on numerous occasions with people I met at the mosques and other locations.

The question to be decided is – how much latitude law enforcement given when conducting surveillance of political and religious groups?

As a side note, you may have also come across the story regarding the FBI’s surveillance on Muslims groups, known as “Operation Flex.”  That story has been reported in many news circles, including the Business Insider here.

via Courthouse News Service.

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Online Retailer and Personal Information

If you have bought anything online, you are aware that the online retailer keeps information that you provide.  For example, your name, your credit card, your address, your phone number.  The question decided in California regarded the anti fraud statute.  Can online retailers require you to provide this information?

The California Supreme Court held in Apple Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, et al., (Feb 4, 2013) that Apple could require personal information from customers who make downloadable purchases on iTunes.

The plaintiffs alleged Apple violated the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, section 1747.08(d), by requiring this information from customers.

The California Supreme Court rejected this claim because:

Unlike a brick-and-mortar retailer, an online retailer cannot visually inspect the credit card, the signature on the back of the card, or the customer’s photo identification.

Thus, section 1747.08(d) – the key anti fraud mechanism in the statutory scheme – has no practical application to online transactions involving electronically downloadable products.  We cannot conclude that if the Legislature in 1990 had been prescient enough to anticipate online transactions involving electronically downloadable products, it would have intended section 1747.08(a)’s prohibitions to apply to such transactions despite the unavailability of section 1747.08(d)’s safeguards.

 

via Courthouse News Service.

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