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Texas primary voting complicated by new election laws : NPR


Future Laurence receives a name on the Harris County Election Workplace in downtown Houston. In January alone, Washington and the 14 different employees within the name middle acquired 8,000 calls from folks asking for assist navigating the voting course of.

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Scott Dalton for NPR


Future Laurence receives a name on the Harris County Election Workplace in downtown Houston. In January alone, Washington and the 14 different employees within the name middle acquired 8,000 calls from folks asking for assist navigating the voting course of.

Scott Dalton for NPR

Inside a name middle in a downtown Houston constructing, a crew of election employees sits throughout from one another in rows of sparsely adorned gray cubicles. It is one week earlier than the primary statewide election since Texas enacted sweeping modifications to its voting legal guidelines, and issues are hectic.

“The cellphone is ringing again to again to again just about with involved voters desirous to know the place their ballots are and what is the standing on their functions,” mentioned Angela Washington, a name middle clerk.

In January alone, Washington and the 14 different employees within the name middle acquired 8,000 calls from individuals who needed assist navigating the voting course of.

Name middle clerk Angela Washington says involved voters have been calling nearly always, checking on their functions.

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Name middle clerk Angela Washington says involved voters have been calling nearly always, checking on their functions.

Scott Dalton for NPR

Hundreds of rejected mail-in ballots previous to the March 1 main left some voters uncertain how and whether or not they’ll be capable of take part, together with many individuals with disabilities and senior residents, who’re amongst these eligible to vote by mail.

In Harris County, dwelling to Houston and the state’s most populous county, 40% of mail-in poll functions had been flagged for rejection.

Supporters of the state’s new voting regulation say it’s meant to revive voter confidence in elections. However some elections officers say it’s simply inflicting widespread confusion.

“It breaks my coronary heart to see that they had been rejected for varied causes,” Washington mentioned. “At that time, it is a matter of looking for them a location the place they will go [vote] in individual.”

ID guidelines are a giant supply of confusion

The regulation now requires voters who qualify for mail-in voting to supply both their driver’s license quantity or a partial Social Safety quantity. That quantity should match what’s on file of their voter registration document. So if a voter registered a long time in the past with their Social Safety quantity however utilized this yr utilizing their driver’s license as an alternative, they’d be rejected.

Washington mentioned she might perceive why some callers are annoyed, even indignant.

“I simply hear, I consolation them as a lot as I can and a few of them simply have to know that anyone cares on the opposite finish,” she mentioned.

Nayda Arnold, who additionally works on the name middle, mentioned it may be upsetting when she’s confronted with an emotional voter.

Nayda Arnold, the deputy director of voter providers, says she spends a whole lot of time on the cellphone to verify every voter feels comfy.

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Nayda Arnold, the deputy director of voter providers, says she spends a whole lot of time on the cellphone to verify every voter feels comfy.

Scott Dalton for NPR

“However more often than not I’ve discovered that once they’re upset, it is as a result of they do not perceive,” she mentioned, including which means staying on the cellphone so long as it takes to make each caller really feel comfy.

The rollout of the regulation, which took impact in December, is burdening native election employees who’re already stretched skinny.

“Day-after-day, they’re on a cellphone name the place they break down crying. We have now folks give up nearly each week,” mentioned Isabel Longoria, the elections administrator in Harris County. She has been vocal in regards to the challenges that this regulation – often known as Senate Invoice 1 – has induced.

“The hours are an excessive amount of, the stress is an excessive amount of, the being questioned by the general public is an excessive amount of, the sensation like we’re shouting right into a void the place nobody is listening is an excessive amount of,” she mentioned.

Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria says the rollout of the brand new Texas voting regulation is severely burdening the already stretched native election employees.

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Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria says the rollout of the brand new Texas voting regulation is severely burdening the already stretched native election employees.

Scott Dalton for NPR

Republicans argue that voting restrictions like these included in Senate Invoice 1 make it simpler to vote and more durable to cheat, regardless of no widespread proof of voter fraud.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott’s workplace didn’t reply to an NPR request for remark. However final month, he pushed again in opposition to criticism that the mail-in voting course of was complicated for voters.

“It is the primary time for this workplace to manage an software to poll by mail the way in which it’s taking place, so I feel there’s a bit of little bit of a studying curve that is occurring,” he informed Spectrum Information.

However Longoria says that is callous.

“Your core rights on this nation ought to by no means be another person’s studying curve,” she mentioned.

Some Texans see intentional hurdles to vote

The regulation’s modifications should not restricted to identification necessities. It additionally features a slew of different restrictions, together with banning drive-through voting and 24-hour voting websites, issues that Harris County applied in 2020 to assist folks vote extra simply and safely through the pandemic.

“It is like, we lastly make some progress, after which we have now the rug pulled out from beneath us,” mentioned Lydia Nunez Landry, who lives in a suburb of Houston. “It simply form of looks like they need to discourage us from voting.”

Nunez Landry has a progressive and at present untreatable type of muscular dystrophy. Due to the dangers of the coronavirus, she shouldn’t be leaving her dwelling a lot. However as a result of confusion surrounding mail-in voting, she feels she has to vote in individual to make sure that her vote is counted.

“I am simply too afraid to danger it,” Nunez Landry mentioned.

She additionally worries in regards to the expanded rights of partisan ballot watchers below the brand new regulation, which permits them “free motion” in most areas of polling locations.

“That actually bothers me, having folks scrutinize or surveil me,” she mentioned. “I do not suppose it needs to be the case for disabled folks to be handled that manner, or any marginalized group.”

Carlos Vanegas pushes a cart with mail-in ballots that shall be despatched to voters on the Harris County Elections Workplace in Houston.

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Carlos Vanegas pushes a cart with mail-in ballots that shall be despatched to voters on the Harris County Elections Workplace in Houston.

Scott Dalton for NPR

Different provisions of the regulation instantly concentrate on voters with disabilities, and advocates say these have created a whole lot of confusion, significantly round what sort of help an individual with disabilities might entry when voting.

“We’re right here in the course of an election cycle, the place folks with disabilities and older adults are scared to vote in individual, as a result of we simply do not know what which means for us,” mentioned Gabe Cazares, the director of the Houston Mayor’s Workplace for Folks with Disabilities.

Cazares mentioned the regulation opens up the door for attendants who help voters to face felony penalties, however that there is not any readability on what constitutes a violation.

That is led to some private care attendants worrying about “being criminally responsible for offering help that they ordinarily present to folks with disabilities,” he mentioned.

Cazares additionally worries that folks with disabilities that aren’t seen might face new challenges whereas voting.

“It is very straightforward to qualify a incapacity while you’re somebody who seems like me. You may look into my eyes and see that I’m a blind individual,” he mentioned. “However there are of us with disabilities the place these should not apparent. And we’re not within the enterprise of policing incapacity.”

Texas is certainly one of 18 states that handed extra restrictive voting legal guidelines after the 2020 presidential election. James Slattery, a senior employees legal professional for the Texas Civil Rights venture, mentioned the rollout of the regulation right here might present a preview of what is to come back throughout the nation.

“Texas shouldn’t be the one state that handed a voter suppression invoice like this,” Slattery mentioned. It’s merely the primary to have a main below its new regulation, and there is not any motive to suppose it should go any higher in any of the opposite states the place they did one thing comparable.”

‘I do not get to fail at this’

In Fort Bend County, 73-year-old Lydia Ozuna painstakingly paperwork every step in her voting course of, within the hopes of training others.

However this yr, even she acquired tripped up when she crammed out an software to vote by mail. Ozuna unintentionally used an outdated software type, one which didn’t have the newly-required fields for together with a driver’s license quantity or partial social safety quantity.

Ozuna came upon instantly as a result of she filed her software in individual. Had she mailed it in, she mentioned, she would not have identified till somebody from her native elections workplace reached her by cellphone or mail to inform her that she’d made a mistake.

Employees reply questions within the name middle on the Harris County Elections Workplace in Houston. In Harris County, 40% of mail-in poll functions had been flagged for rejection.

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Scott Dalton for NPR


Employees reply questions within the name middle on the Harris County Elections Workplace in Houston. In Harris County, 40% of mail-in poll functions had been flagged for rejection.

Scott Dalton for NPR

Ozuna, who leads an anti-gerrymandering group, grew up watching her father pay ballot taxes in order that he might vote.

“Our state has a historical past of violating the civil rights of its residents. I lived it as a child,” she mentioned.

Ozuna mentioned she sees shades of that historical past right this moment.

“I feel the purpose is to simply have the few individuals who have the know-how be those to vote, and everybody else keep dwelling,” she mentioned. “And that is a grim prospect.”

Again on the Harris County elections workplace, Isabel Longoria says that prospect is why she and her crew maintain working by way of burnout, and even their very own frustrations with how the rollout has gone.

“If I’ve everybody give up tomorrow in elections, democracy shouldn’t be taking place. I do not get to fail at this job, and I feel that is what everybody on my crew understands, who does nonetheless discover one other day to work,” she mentioned.

How MLB’s Lockout Complicated Tommy Edman’s Christmas Dinner


SAN DIEGO — The baseball lockout is sophisticated on many ranges, however maybe nowhere was it extra convoluted than within the residence of the Edmans in December.

In concept, anyway, Main League Baseball protocols prevented two of John and Maureen Edman’s youngsters, who had been working in analytics for main league organizations, from speaking to the third, a switch-hitting infielder.

“It positively was a bizarre situation,” John Edman mentioned over espresso this month. “They joked about it fairly a bit.”

Inside baseball discuss was out throughout the household’s Christmas gathering, as entrance workplace personnel are prohibited from talking with gamers. However on the dinner desk, they figured, it was OK for Elise to ask her brother Tommy to cross the pepper.

“However they made me sit in one other room, and we had an individual going forwards and backwards passing messages between me and my brother and me and my sister,” Tommy mentioned. He was joking.

Amongst baseball’s many charms over time has been its numerous royal households passing the hardball from one technology to the following: the Bells (Gus, Buddy and David); the Motas (Manny, Jose and Andy); the Alous (Jesus, Matt, Felipe and Moises); the Ken Griffeys (Sr. and Jr.); and Bobby and Barry Bonds.

Here’s a baseball dynasty up to date for contemporary instances.

Tommy Edman, 26, is a 2021 Gold Glove-winning second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Johnny Edman, 28, is a knowledge high quality engineer in analysis and growth for the Minnesota Twins.

Their sister, Elise, 23, was a techniques engineer with the Cardinals for many of the previous two years earlier than leaving final month for a cellular know-how job.

“Being in our household, it’s powerful to not discuss baseball,” Tommy mentioned.

John Edman, the household patriarch, performed shortstop at Williams School in Williamstown, Mass., majored in economics, minored in arithmetic after which earned a graduate diploma in statistics on the College of Michigan whereas working as a graduate assistant baseball coach for the Wolverines. He’s in his third decade as a highschool baseball coach and starting his twenty second season in cost at La Jolla Nation Day College in San Diego, the place two of his gamers have gone on to the majors — his son Tommy and Alfonso Rivas, a primary baseman and outfielder who was known as up by the Chicago Cubs final summer time.

“This marriage by no means would have labored out if I didn’t love baseball as a lot as my husband did,” mentioned Maureen Edman, who listened to Dodgers and Angels video games nightly whereas rising up in Southern California. When she returned to Williams for research in late summer time, her mom, within the days earlier than the web, mailed Los Angeles Occasions sports activities sections to her so she may sustain along with her hometown baseball information.

Maureen and John Edman’s youngsters inherited the mathematics genes — and the infield filth. Johnny, who majored in utilized math at Wheaton School in Illinois, was the scorekeeper for his father’s groups by the point he was in first grade, working a PalmPilot so properly that adults had been flummoxed when requested to work his system. Tommy majored in math and computational science at Stanford earlier than St. Louis picked him within the sixth spherical of the 2016 novice draft. Elise majored in pc science and minored in information science whereas taking part in volleyball at Davidson School.

“I noticed I didn’t have a future taking part in, however I’ve at all times recognized in regards to the different facet of the sport,” Johnny Edman mentioned. “‘Moneyball’ was considered one of my favourite books.” He added: “I really like numbers, love the way it will help drive resolution making on participant acquisitions and in participant growth.”

His mom, evaluating him to the Oakland Athletics govt on the middle of “Moneyball,” mentioned: “He principally wished to be Billy Beane. We did that math, and we mentioned: ‘Johnny, you realize, it will be simpler to be Wil Myers. There are extra gamers than G.M.s within the majors.”

Johnny Edman was an intern with the San Diego Padres in 2016 and added to his data-engineering expertise by working for a tax compliance software program firm afterward. He additionally performed in a fantasy league wherein the gamers began the season by “proudly owning” one group that included “a full minor league system with full roster guidelines, arbitration, a full 40-man roster,” he mentioned. “You had a wage cap based mostly on an affordable quantity on your workforce to spend. You’re signing gamers to contracts, you actually should suppose the way you need to signal guys, not like your commonplace fantasy baseball leagues.”

He purchased into the Minnesota Twins in that league, so it was serendipitous that, a short time later, the true Twins had a gap. Johnny Edman was employed in 2019.

“Our man, he loves the sport identical to his brother. Once I watch his brother play, I take into consideration the best way Johnny is within the entrance workplace,” Derek Falvey, Minnesota’s president of baseball operations, mentioned on the common supervisor conferences in November, when executives may nonetheless focus on gamers. “He loves speaking about every part. He’s type of scrappy. That’s the best way I view his brother on the sector, proper? He’s concerned in every part.”

Tommy Edman was known as as much as the Cardinals for a recreation at Wrigley Discipline on June 8, 2019. He supplied such a spark in what had been anticipated to be a brief stint, hitting .304 with a .350 on-base proportion and 15 steals, that he by no means returned to the minors. He was instrumental in serving to St. Louis advance to the Nationwide League Championship Collection towards Washington that fall, although his success brought about one headache: He and his spouse, Kristen, who performed softball in faculty, scrambled to postpone their marriage ceremony, which had been deliberate for after the minor league season.

“Clearly that’s one of many solely excuses that’s legitimate for pushing a marriage again,” Tommy mentioned.

The one shock larger than Tommy Edman’s speedy ascent was Elise’s entry into skilled baseball.

“I really wrote my faculty essay about how I’d cover in my little toy pink tent after I was youthful and keep away from watching baseball video games in any respect prices,” Elise mentioned. However the recreation grew on her, and he or she ultimately grew to become a workforce supervisor for her father’s highschool workforce.

When she realized of a gap with the Cardinals as commencement neared, she utilized and was employed in Might 2020. It was throughout the coronavirus lockdown season, and “she really received to go to a recreation as a result of she was within the entrance workplace, and my entire household was jealous of her,” Tommy mentioned.

Johnny loved teasing Elise about how she had turn into Tommy’s co-worker. “She’d normally chuckle,” Johnny mentioned. “However I don’t suppose she thought it was all that humorous.”

In Minnesota that summer time, Johnny Edman was allowed within the ballpark as a result of he was working the Trackman system, which information the trajectory and spin charge of pitched and batted balls. When the Cardinals got here to city and Tommy hit a house run, Johnny snagged the ball, which now sits on a mantel in his residence.

Generally, their baseball world has been awkward.

Johnny rolled into his first day of labor in Minnesota with a Cardinals bumper sticker affixed to his 2009 Toyota Corolla, which elicited loads of razzing. He fastened that by including a Twins license plate body.

Then, throughout the 2020 season, the brothers met for espresso, open air and socially distanced, when St. Louis performed in Minnesota within the Cardinals’ remaining two video games earlier than a coronavirus outbreak within the group led to a two-week break.

“I bear in mind considering, ‘Oh my goodness, this might spider out simply because he noticed his brother,’” Falvey mentioned. Thankfully, neither Tommy nor Johnny was affected.

December, although, did current its challenges. Earlier than the Edmans navigated the conversational chasm at Christmas, Elise married Patrick Casey, who performed basketball at Davidson, not lengthy after the house owners locked out the gamers. As her massive day approached, Elise’s Cardinals co-workers teased that she wouldn’t have the ability to communicate along with her personal brother at her marriage ceremony.

“Now I can discuss to him, in order that’s an added bonus,” Elise Casey mentioned, due to her nonbaseball job.

When the lockout ends, Johnny is raring to renew his cut up loyalties at work.

“I normally have each my TV and pc going, one on the Twins recreation and one on the Cardinals, so I can maintain monitor of how we’re doing and the way he’s doing,” mentioned Johnny, who feels lucky to be within the league reverse his brother so he doesn’t really feel responsible about supporting a second workforce.

Or, as Tommy Edman mentioned, “If he was working for the Brewers or the Cubs, then he’d actually have a troublesome time selecting who to root for.”