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Five Supreme Court rulings that signal what to expect next

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Things usually move pretty slowly for the US Supreme Court, with cases sometimes taking years to make their way through to a ruling. But these days it’s moving so quickly that the newest justice didn’t even have time to participate in the first two crucial voting rulings after her confirmation. The breakneck pace shows that the nation’s highest court is already shaping the 2020 election—and how it might do even more after November 3.

In just two weeks, the court has issued five orders on voting cases, all focusing on one central question: Who decides exactly how we count votes?

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted about the latest Supreme Court decision, on North Carolina’s extension for counting mail-in ballots to account for delays in the postal service. The justices rejected a Republican attempt to block the extension, and the state can now count mail ballots until November 12 as long as they were sent by Election Day. The extension is designed as a fix to unprecedented mail delivery delays.

“This decision is CRAZY and so bad for our Country,” Trump tweeted. “Can you imagine what will happen during that nine day period. The Election should END on November 3rd.”

Trump’s tweet goes to the heart of the political and legal case he’s been making all year. But there are problems with his argument: namely that it goes against every election in American history, it has no legal basis, and it’s a part of his politicized disinformation campaign about election security that’s regularly contradicted by the federal government’s own top election security officials.

There is nothing nefarious to “imagine.” Counting ballots after Election Day happens in literally every national election. Every vote has never been counted on election night. The “results” you typically hear on that night are actually news media predictions with zero legal weight. Officially certified results don’t come in for days or weeks as all ballots are counted. 

It’s the counting of ballots that’s at issue in the Supreme Court. Dealing with a worsening pandemic, record-breaking mail-in voting, and the US Postal Service faltering under a recent Trump donor, some states have attempted to deal with the problems by extending the time for valid ballots to be counted.

Democrats and court liberals have supported expanded voting rules in hopes of adapting to this unprecedented election challenge. Republicans and court conservatives, meanwhile, have generally opposed rule changes enacted by state legislatures even when they’re pushed by state election officials.

The rulings so far

Here’s how the Supreme Court has ruled in recent cases that will define the 2020 election.

Pennsylvania, October 20: The Republicans lost a swing state battle over Pennsylvania last week. The state’s Supreme Court had ruled that mail ballots could be received three days after election day, based on the Postal Service saying that delivery delays risked disenfranchisement around the state. Who made the ruling is a key theme here: If the extensions come from the states, they tend to succeed in the Supreme Court; if they come from the federal government, they fail. 

Alabama, October 22: A statewide ban on curbside voting—that is, disabled folks driving up to a polling place and dropping off ballots—was allowed to stand by the US Supreme Court. The ban originally came from the Alabama Secretary of State, who was in dispute with a federal court that the ban violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state prevailed here over dissent from the Supreme Court’s liberals.

Wisconsin, October 26: As we recently reported, the Supreme Court declined to extend the deadline for counting of mail-in votes in Wisconsin, a victory for Republicans who brought the legal challenge. This particular extension order originally came from a federal judge in September, a crucial point that the conservatives in the court all agreed on: Federal courts shouldn’t micromanage state-run elections.

Pennsylvania, October 28: The US Supreme Court declined a Republican request to expedite a review of Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot deadlines—the case it had ruled on the previous week. But the issue is not gone for good: Conservative justices left the door open to the possibility of revisiting the case after the election, and Pennsylvania officials are segregating ballots received post-Election Day in the case of just such a legal battle. If the vote is close in Pennsylvania, you can bet this will rear its head once again.

North Carolina, October 29: Democrats won a similar case a few days later in a 5-3 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the more liberal justices in allowing North Carolina to receive and count votes up to nine days after Election Day. This extension, from three days to nine days, came from the state’s Board of Elections. That, to Roberts, ultimately made the difference.

The near future

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Trump predicted last month.

Amy Coney Barrett hasn’t participated in any of the five major voting rulings but she’s sure to be involved in the future, and will certainly play a role in any legal dispute after Election Day. President Trump has made it clear that’s where sees the fight going after the polls are closed.

If results are close enough that ballots counted after polls close will make a difference to the outcome, it’s a virtual guarantee that lawsuits will be filed in short order—as long as one side sees it to their advantage. However, there is increasing evidence that Democrats have sent their mail-in ballots in earlier than Republicans. If that’s the case in some key swing states, the entire premise could get flipped.

If it feels like the US Supreme Court can play an enormous role in the outcome of the upcoming election, that’s true. But all of it depends on what happens at the ballot box. A landslide one way or the other could make most legal challenges inconsequential: there’s no need to fight over 10,000 votes if the gap is 500,000. 

But if the margin around the country and in key swing states gets close enough, the next move is clear: The US Supreme Court.

This is an excerpt from The Outcome, our daily email on election integrity and security. Click here to get regular updates straight to your inbox.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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The Trump administration will add SMIC, China’s largest chipmaker, to its defense blacklist: report

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SMIC, one of largest chip makers in the world, is among several companies that the Department of Defense plans to designate as being owned or controlled by the Chinese military, reports Reuters. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, set to go into effect on January 11, that would bar U.S. investors from buying securities from companies on the defense blacklist.

In a statement to Reuters, SMIC said it continues “to engage constructively and openly with the U.S. government” and that it “has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for military end-users or end-uses.”

The largest semiconductor maker in China, SMIC holds about 4% of the worldwide foundry market, estimates market research firm TrendForce. Its U.S. customers have included Qualcomm, Broadcom and Texas Instruments.

There are currently 31 companies on the defense blacklist. SMIC is one of four new companies that the Department of Defense plans to add, according to Reuters. The others are China Construction Technology, China International Engineering Consulting Corp and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).

The company delisted from NYSE in May 2019, but it said that the decision was prompted by the limited trading volume and high administrative costs, not the U.S.-China trade war or the U.S. government’s blacklisting of Huawei and other Chinese tech companies.

SMIC has already been impacted by export restrictions that prevent them from purchasing key equipment from American suppliers. At the beginning of October, it told shareholders that export restrictions set by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security could have “material adverse effects” on its production.

The executive order, and the possible addition of new companies to the defense blacklist, is in-line with the Trump administration’s hard stance against Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, ZTE and ByteDance, that it claims are a potential national security threat through their alleged ties to the Chinese government and military. But the future of a lot of the current administration’s policies after the Joe Biden assumes the presidency on January 20 is uncertain.

TechCrunch has contacted SMIC for comment.

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Primer, the fintech helping merchants consolidate the payments stack, raises £14M Series A

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Primer, the U.K. fintech that wants to help merchants consolidate their payments stack and easily support new payment methods in the future, has raised £14 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Accel, who I understand were quite proactive in persuading Primer to take the VC firm’s money.

The young company wasn’t actively fund-raising, having quietly raised £3.8 million in funding announced in May. Instead, the team was heads down building out the product and wooing potential customers by holding technical workshops and in-depth interviews over Zoom with 100 merchants — activity that didn’t go unnoticed.

Also participating in the Series A are existing investors: Balderton, SpeedInvest and Seedcamp, who were joined in the round by new backer RTP Global. Sonali De Rycker, partner at Accel, will join Primer’s board.

Founded by ex-PayPal employees – via PayPal’s acquisition of Braintree — Primer wants to offer one payments API to (hopefully) rule them all, with the explicit aim of bringing greater transparency to a merchant’s payment stack.

The thinking is that larger merchants, especially those that operate in more than one geography, have to support an array of payment methods, which brings with it significant technical overhead, a poor user experience, and lack of transparency.

Primer, now described as a “low code” platform, carries out a lot of that heavy-lifting on behalf of merchants and while remaining steadfastly payment method agnostic. By doing so, the idea is to reduce friction when adopting new payment methods as they come to market, and be able to provide better insights into things like how well each checkout option is performing.

As well as payment-service-providers (PSPs), the platform has connectors for fraud providers, chargeback services, subscription billing engines, BI tools, loyalty and rewards platforms. Both payments and non-payments services can be “seamlessly connected to the checkout experience and payments flow via workflows, enabling merchants to unify their fraud migration efforts, build sophisticated transaction routing, and solve complex flows – all with no code,” explains Primer.

Primer says the additional funding will be used for international business development and scaling its team. Billed as a remote-first company, Primer has 23 employees across six countries, and says it has already picked up traction across mid-market and large enterprise e-commerce merchants across Europe.

Comments Paul Anthony, Primer’s co-founder and head of product and engineering: “During our time at PayPal, we saw first-hand the technical burden online merchants face trying to offer the best payments experiences to their customers globally. Our low-code approach enables merchants’ payments teams to manage and expand their payments ecosystems, and maintain sophisticated payments logic with a familiar workflow UI”.

Meanwhile, the new investment brings Primer’s total funding to £17.8 million, and comes only a few weeks after the initial launch of the company’s platform.

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Gillmor Gang: Electrical Banana

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Thanks I’m giving for the start of the first big online season. Yes, the pandemic has put in place a gigantic move to the digital for our immediate and accelerated future. We all know how this plays out in the required state of things pre-vaccine. But there’s an undercurrent not so hidden there of a dynamic answer to my wife’s stubborn question: Where’s my Jetpack?

She’s a child of the 60s, a post-Beatles time of imploding dreams and dashed expectations. James Bond got to fly a Jetpack, but the telltale burned gasoline exhaust made the effect an artifact of what wasn’t going to happen. In an electric decade and noise-canceling AirPods, maybe it’s more likely to surface than not, but if so, what’s the next Jetpack?

My vote is for the electric newsletter, a notification engine that knows what I’m tracking, projects the trends circulating my core peers, and invests proactively in the products we want to accelerate. It’s a self healing economy, a research coordinator, a humor and media rewarder. On the Gang, we use a blend of live streaming, backchannel notifications, and everything up to but not including a newsletter.

From its earliest days, Twitter promised a future where RSS authority would be mined in a social context. What I mean by that is RSS delivered the ability, the chair in the sky opportunity Louis C.K. described, the chance to explore the world alongside the artists formerly known as accredited journalists. It was always a tough sell for the displaced gatekeepers, but flash forward to today and you can see they’re all bloggers and podcasters now.

The moment the meritocracy window opened, the definition of success moved to the readers, the viewers, the social enterprise as Marc Benioff insisted. Software as a service mined those social signals as fuel for what the iPhone delivered in the mobile wave. Now the mobile economy is expanding to the silicon on the desktop. M1 seems like an evolution, but its entry point on consumer laptops is designed to produce network effects in the same way Office 97 boosted Windows 95 into orbit.

So where is this electric newsletter if it’s so important? As a vehicle for finding stuff I didn’t know I cared about, newsletters suffer from too many of them with too few business models driving them. Subscriptions derive revenue but reduce the network effects of advertising supported subsidy of firewalls. You get reach but quantity explodes. Context glut is not a pretty thing, either.

Our early attempts at constructing a Gang newsletter spawned the realtimeTelegram feed; its group-shared notification stream valuable as much for what we skipped as when we dipped in to it. As a framing device for the Gillmor Gang recording sessions, we could anticipate both what we wanted to talk about and what we wanted to avoid. Trump fatigue gets burned off in Telegram, while science and innovation get drilled down on and fleshed out in advance.

Adding a Twitter feed (follow @gillmorgang) pushes Likes and retweets into the mix. The live recording stream generates Facebook Watch Parties and additional comments. An edited version here on TechCrunch adds this related commentary. But where’s the newsletter for all these live pieces?

Perhaps the answer goes back to the Jetpack? It may not be the Jetpack we are looking for, but rather the components that make up this stream as a service. A Jetpack offers the dream of instant teleportation without the traffic jams or being polite about your Uber driver’s musical taste. Zoom already offers some of that promise, where saving the commute opens up hours in your day. Zoom-enabled shopping and delivery management will go a long way.

As Donovan presciently proclaimed, Electrical Banana gonna to be the very next phase. My electric newsletter is the perfect definition of a pipe dream. It’s not so much as when it’s going to get here as what.

__________________

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Friday, November 20, 2020.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

For more, subscribe to the Gillmor Gang Newsletter and join the backchannel here on Telegram.

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook … and here’s our sister show G3 on Facebook.

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