Michigan 2020 Election Tracker | Democrats push James to stake position on SCOTUS vacancy

Last updated: Friday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m. This post will be continuously updated with Michigan political and elections news.

Dems push James to stake position on SCOTUS vacancy

Michigan Democrats are pressuring Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James to say whether he thinks President Donald Trump should fill a new Supreme Court vacancy before the Nov. 3 election against Joe Biden. 

In a statement released Monday, James called for unity and bipartisanship but did not weigh in on the timing for a successor to liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week.

Whenever a nominee is put forward, Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, who James is challenging, should “fairly and honestly evaluate the nominee on his or her merits, not on the basis of party politics,” the Farmington Hills businessman said. 

But with Trump expected to name a nominee as soon as this weekend, Democrats are demanding James stake a position on the timing of a potential Senate confirmation vote. They’re accusing the GOP of hypocrisy four years after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a nominee of Democratic President Barack Obama because it was an election year. 

Michigan voters “deserve to know if John James in ‘2000%’ behind Trump and Mitch McConnell or if he will honor the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and let Michigan voters decide the future direction of our country,” Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Wednesday in a statement. 

Republicans are defending James and contend the Senate can and should act quickly to confirm Trump’s nominee, a development that would shift the court further right, perhaps for decades. 

“James will make his decision, and make a statement one way or the other,” former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Friday in a conference call with reporters. “The point is, the current United States Senate, there’s plenty of time for the Senate to perform its constitutional responsibilities.”

Peters is opposed to a Senate confirmation vote this fall, saying in a Monday statement that “voters should have their voices heard, and there should not be a Supreme Court nomination until the next presidential term begins.”

The James campaign did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment. — Mansur Shaheen

Jill Biden set to visit Traverse City

Jill Biden, the former second lady and wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, is set to campaign for her husband in Traverse City on Tuesday.

The Biden campaign announced the pending trip Thursday but did not offer any additional details about the visit. The time and location are not yet known.

The campaign has already deployed Jill Biden to Michigan several times this month as it targets a state that Republican President Donald Trump narrowly carried in 2016. 

She spoke Sept. 15 in west Michigan, where she was joined by Democratic congressional candidate Hillary Scholten of Grand Rapids. The former teacher also discussed school reopenings Sept. 10 in a virtual listening session with Michigan parents and incumbent Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Holly.

Michigan continues to get plenty of attention from both presidential campaigns. Trump held a rally in the Saginaw area this month and Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Traverse City in late August. Joe Biden campaigned in Warren this month, while running mate Kamala Harris spoke this week in Detroit and Flint. — Mansur Shaheen

Thursday, Sept. 24

Whitmer calls for investigation into Trump’s ‘politicization’ of COVID response

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are calling for a congressional investigation into what they say is President Trump’s “politicization of government functions that have impeded the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a joint statement released Thursday by the governors. 

They cited reports last week that the U.S. Postal Service drafted a plan to send 650 million masks to Americans in the early months of the pandemic, but it was never put into effect. 

The governors also noted reports that the Department of Health and Human Services implemented a policy recommending coronavirus testing only for people with symptoms, which didn’t reflect the views of many inside the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That decision was reversed last week

“It's increasingly clear that the President and his advisers are trying to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration's political agenda,” the statement read. “As a country, we cannot allow this type of politically-motivated decision making to take root… Our future health and economic security depends on holding the Trump administration accountable today.”

Whitmer is one of four national co-chairs to the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the Democratic nominee for president. — Riley Beggin

Wednesday, Sept. 23

Karen Pence to make Michigan stops

Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence is visiting west Michigan on Friday as part of President Donald Trump’s campaign for re-election.

Pence will appear at an “Evangelicals for Trump” event in Holland at 11 a.m. at the Baker Loft event venue, as well as a “Women for Trump” event at 12:30 p.m. at New Vintage Place in Grand Rapids.

These visits follow appearances Tuesday from Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Flint and Detroit. Both Trump and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden have made appearances in the state this month as well. — Mansur Shaheen

How to register to vote, cast an early absentee ballot in Michigan

The 2020 election is just six weeks away, and many Michiganders are still trying to figure out how to register to vote in Michigan, how to vote in Michigan this year, and the deadline to register to vote in the state this year.

Bridge Michigan reporter Riley Beggin put together a guide on Tuesday, answering the questions many may have ahead of what will be a unique election in the wake of COVID-19.

Beggin provides information on how to check your voter information, how to apply for an absentee ballot, how to go through the step-by-step process of voting, and what to do in case you make an error while voting.

Keep the guide on hand, as it may be your best friend as we approach the general election. — Mansur Shaheen

Tuesday, Sept. 22

Kamala Harris: ‘Path toward victory… runs straight through Michigan’ 

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris campaigned in Flint and Detroit on Tuesday, urging Democrats to vote — and vote early by absentee ballot — in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“I do believe a path toward victory in this election runs straight through Michigan, and so I am here to speak with you, because you possess an ability to make a decision in this election that could impact hundreds of millions of people in our country,” Harris said in an evening voter mobilization event outside the Detroit Pistons’ practice facility in the city’s New Center neighborhood.

Wearing a mask, Harris was joined at the socially distanced event by former Pistons star Ben Wallace, Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others.

The Tuesday stops were Harris’ first in-person events in Michigan since Democratic nominee Joe Biden picked her as his running mate Aug. 11. Biden visited the state two weeks ago, and his wife, Jill Biden, campaigned here last week. Republican President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have also both campaigned in Michigan in recent weeks, highlighting its importance to both campaigns. 

“We will keep coming back, because so goes Michigan, goes the rest of the country as far as we’re concerned,” Harris said. 

The U.S. senator from California blasted Trump for telling journalist Bob Woodward he intentionally downplayed COVID-19 in order to prevent public panic, saying the country “deserves better.” She also lambasted the president’s ongoing legal fight to invalidate the Affordable Care Act despite the global pandemic.

“In the midst of a moment that requires that people who are gravely sick have medical care and access to care without being burdened with worrying about whether they can afford it, he’s in court trying to get rid of it,” she said of the federal health care law. — Jonathan Oosting

Independent redistricting commissioner resigns 

A new Independent member of the 13-person redistricting commission will be chosen via random selection on Wednesday morning after commissioner James “Ed” Decker resigned over the weekend. 

Decker, who was one of five Independent members of the commission, which also includes four Republicans and four Democrats, quit the commission “due to changes in personal circumstances,” according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. 

Decker is a 59-year-old from Fowlerville. He wrote on his application for the commission that he felt Michigan has become too politically polarized. 

The commission was created by a statewide ballot initiative in 2018 to replace the traditional method of drawing voting district lines. In the past, the majority party in the state Legislature drew districts after the decennial census with approval from the governor. For the last two redistricting cycles in Michigan, the lines have been drawn by a GOP-led Legislature and approved by a governor of the same party. 

The commission met for the first time on Sept. 17 and will conduct public hearings on potential districts over the coming months. Final maps will be adopted by the commission by Nov. 1, 2021 and enacted into law by the end of December 2021. Riley Beggin

Absentee ballot requests top 2.3 million

A record-shattering number of Michiganders — 2.39 million — have requested an absentee ballot to vote in the Nov. 3 general election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office announced Tuesday. 

That’s up around 100,000 ballots since last week and tops the previous record of around 2 million ballots requested in the August primary election. 

More than 270,000 absentee ballots have already been mailed, said Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow. The rest will begin being mailed on Thursday, when clerks are required to begin sending ballots to voters. 

When absentee ballots are sent, it effectively begins early voting. The more than 1,500 clerks offices across the state will be open and available for people to vote in-person absentee. Many cities have chosen to open satellite locations to make it easier to vote in-person absentee or return ballots. Detroit will have around 20 satellite locations that will open on Oct. 5. 

Voters can return absentee ballots by mail, in-person at their clerks office or a satellite location, or at a ballot drop box. “We recommend people get their ballot in the mail by Oct. 19” to account for any potential postal delays, Rollow said, though ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 will now be counted in the fall election. Riley Beggin

Donald Trump touts nonexistent Michigan factories

While the rally President Donald Trump held on Saturday took place in North Carolina, Michigan became a talking point, as he falsely claimed the state was rewarded with manufacturing jobs from Japan for helping him secure the White House in 2016.

 A fact check from the Associated Press deems his claims untrue, though.

Trump told a story of how, after winning the state, he approached then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and negotiated to bring auto manufacturing plants from Japanese based companies to Michigan. Trump said that “five car companies opened up in Michigan”.

This is wholly untrue, though. Per the Associated Press, “no Japanese automaker assembly plants have been announced or built in Michigan, let alone in one day, and there are no plans to add any.”

The AP does mention that some new jobs did come to the state, though. Subaru built a research center in Van Buren Township near Detroit, while Toyota has expanded its research center near Ann Arbor.

In total, the number of auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan have fallen under Trump, Bridge has reported. — Mansur Shaheen

Monday, Sept. 21

President Donald Trump encouraged Michiganders to vote early by mail on Monday, months after he questioned the security of mail-in voting. 

“Attention MICHIGAN!” Trump wrote Monday afternoon. “Early voting has started AND absentee ballots are being mailed out. Take advantage of the early voting and absentee calendar. Vote in person today or request an absentee ballot here.” 

Absentee voting in Michigan actually begins on Thursday, when clerks begin sending absentee ballots to those who request them. Ballots can be returned to clerks via mail, in-person or drop box until 8 p.m. on Election Day. For the 2020 election only, absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 (the day before the election) will be counted if they reach the clerk within two weeks of Election Day.

Trump has been an ardent critic of mail-in voting, calling it “rigged” and “bad, dishonest and slow” and claiming that it’s ripe for fraud. A Trump campaign spokesperson told Bridge in August that the president has always been supportive of mail-in voting, and it’s just universal mail-in voting that he thinks is fraudulent. — Riley Beggin

Slotkin, Junge square off in first debate

Debate season in Michigan gets underway Monday, as Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, and challenger Paul Junge, R- Brighton, meet for the first of three debates from 7 to 8 p.m. in Lansing.

It will be aired live on Lansing CBS affiliate WLNS and streamed online at wlns.com/live.

Slotkin represents the 8th District, which stretches from Lansing to northern Oakland County, and assumed office in 2019, after defeating two-term Republican incumbent Mike Bishop. Junge recently served in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in President Donald Trump’s administration. He has never held public office.

The next two debates are Sept. 27 on WDIV-TV’s “Flashpoint” program in Detroit and Oct. 6 on WHMI-FM radio in Howell. — Mansur Shaheen

Kamala Harris set to make two Michigan stops Tuesday

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is set to make campaign stops in Detroit and Flint on Tuesday.

In the morning the senator will tour small businesses in Flint that have been hit by the coronavirus. At 4:30, she'll sit down for a roundtable discussion with Black men in Detroit. Afterward, Harris will participate in a voter mobilization event in the city to mark National Voter Registration Day and the first day that Michiganders can begin to vote in person.

Harris’ visit follows other recent stops in the Great Lakes state from the Joe Biden campaign. The Democratic presidential hopeful himself gave a speech to UAW union members in Warren in early September, followed by the launch of the ‘It Didn’t Have to be This Bad’ virtual tour across the state. His wife, Jill, made stops in Grand Rapids and Battle Creek last week.

Their opponent in the race, President Donald Trump, also made a recent appearance in the state, holding a rally at MBS International Airport near Saginaw in mid-September. The president is also set to hold a rally in nearby Toledo, Ohio, on Monday. — Mansur Shaheen

Peters: 'It's important for Biden to be in the state'

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters says he’s stressed to Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden that visits to the Great Lakes state are crucial ahead of the November election.

“It is important for [Biden] to be in the state,” Peters told Carol Cain of CBS 62’s “Michigan Matters” on Sunday, “it’s very important to be here and let folks know you care about Michigan and you’re talking about issues that impact us here in Michigan.”

Biden recently launched a virtual “It Didn’t Have to be this Bad” tour in Michigan, and appeared recently at a campaign event in Warren. His running mate, Kamala Harris, is set to visit Detroit and Flint on Tuesday

Republican President Donald Trump, meanwhile, hosted a big rally this month at MBS International Airport in Saginaw County.

Polls have shown Biden leading Trump in Michigan, but some party activists have complained  the Democrat is taking the state for granted, an oversight they claim is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s mistakes in 2016.

“There’s no question Michigan is a battleground state,” said Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, who is up for re-election against Republican John James, a Farmington Hills businessman.

An in-person visit from Biden could help increase turnout to help Democrats down-ballot, Peters said.

“Many more people turn out in a presidential year than they do in the off-year elections. And they are often turning out for their candidate for president. So it has an impact on the whole ticket,” the senator said, “But really I think the biggest impact is the increase in turnout dramatically in the presidential year. We are seeing that now with absentee ballots that have already exceeded all records in terms of the number of people who will likely be voting absentee.”

Absentee ballot requests in the state have shattered previous records for the November election, with the number slowly growing by the day. Anyone is allowed to request an absentee ballot this election season no matter their circumstances, a change from previous electons.

Michigan is set to be a crucial, and even “necessary,” as Peters puts it, state in the November election. Mansur Shaheen

Friday, Sept. 21

James narrows race against Gary Peters, new Free Press poll shows

Incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, currently holds a slight lead over Republican challenger John James, per a new poll released Friday by the Detroit Free Press.

Peters leads the race about 45 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning the race could be even, according to the poll. Five percent support a third-party candidate, while 9 percent of voters polled are undecided.

Per Real Clear Politics, Peters held a large lead in the polls for much of the summer, with an advantage of 10.8 percentage points in its poll aggregator in late June. The lead has narrowed following a blitz of TV advertising from James, a Farmington Hills businessman.

The same poll also found President Donald Trump, a Republican, trailing his Democratic challenger Joe Biden 40 percent to 48 percent. That is slightly down from Biden's 11 percentage point lead in July, according to the Free Press.

The poll involved 600 likely voters. — Mansur Shaheen

Thursday, Sept. 17

Trump attacks Benson over ballot error

President Donald Trump says that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — whom he called a “Trump Hater” — tried to confuse voters by sending absentee ballots to military members without Vice President Mike Pence’s name on them.

The president’s allegation on Thursday comes two days after it was reported that local clerks downloaded at least 400 ballots that listed Jeremy Cohen, the Libertarian vice-presidential candidate, as Trump’s running mate instead of Pence. 

Benson’s office wrote on Twitter that it was “an isolated human error” that won’t be repeated, and her office doesn’t know how many of the ballots were sent to voters. On Wednesday, Benson said the problem was “a computer glitch” that was quickly addressed. 

Secretary of State spokesperson Jake Rollow said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Trump’s tweet is “false and misleading.”

Clerks who sent out the ballots will be told to tell voters about the problem and send out a new ballot. Those who use the old ballot and vote for Trump will automatically include a vote for Pence, a Benson spokesperson told reporters— Riley Beggin

Biden announces ‘It Didn’t Have to Be This Bad’ virtual tour in Michigan

The Joe Biden campaign is going on tour. 

The campaign for the Democratic presidential hopeful announced the “It Didn’t Have to Be This Bad” tour on Thursday, which will be “spotlighting how Trump’s ongoing failure to handle the pandemic has devastated Michigan’s economy,” per the official release.

It will be a virtual tour, where politicians and Michigan based organizations will discuss the state’s economy in the wake of COVID-19.

The first event is  8 a.m. Friday. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown will be joined by representatives from UNITE HERE, a multinational labor union, and Detroit casino workers who have been laid off in recent months.

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader and founder of Fair Fight Action, and organization created to fight voter suppression, will join an event on Sunday. She will be joined by members of Michigan AFL-CIO.

Future events will be announced in the coming days, per the official release. — Mansur Shaheen

Michigan GOP files FEC complaint against Peters campaign

Laura Cox, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission seeking an  investigation of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield, on claims he is illegally working with outside groups to coordinate talking points used in ad buys.

In a Wednesday complaint, the GOP alleges the talking points from a webpage on Peters’ campaign website were used in ads paid for by the Senate Majority PAC that aired in Detroit, Flint and Lansing, and that the Peters campaign had coordinated the use of the same points.

Peters is running for re-election against Republican challenger John James, a Farmington Hills businessman.

“Gary Peters continues to use his campaign website to illegally coordinate with outside groups,” Cox says in the official release, “It is clear Gary Peters and his campaign are panicking as the polls tighten and illegally signaling to Chuck Schumer and other corporate groups to help his flailing campaign.”

A similar FEC complaint was filed by Michigan Democrats against the James campaign on Aug. 24, alleging that the Republican challenger had illegally solicited funds from the dark money group One Nation.

“This is just another desperate, baseless attempt to deflect from the fact that John James openly pleaded for dark money spending in this race to support him and is firmly in the pockets of Mitch McConnell, Betsy DeVos’ family, and the out-of-state-billionaires who have poured millions into propping up James’ campaign because they know he would work for them in Washington,” a spokesperson from the Peters campaign told Bridge. — Mansur Shaheen

Appeals court sides with Benson on ballot application mailings

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s decision to send absentee ballot applications to all of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters was legal, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. 

Benson had “inherent authority” under the state constitution for the mailing, appeals court wrote judges James Redford and Jonathan Tukel, both of whom are appointees of former Gov. RIck Snyder, a Republican. 

Judge Patrick Meter, first appointed by GOP Gov. John Engler, dissented, arguing that only local clerks have the power to send out absentee ballot applications. 

The court’s decision upholds a 2-1 decision from a lower court in the lawsuits brought by Yvonne Black and Nevin Cooper-Keel, former Republican candidates for the state House, and Robert Davis, a frequent litigator and activist. 

Benson’s mailing drew criticism from state and national Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who called her a “rogue Secretary of State” on Twitter in May.  — Riley Beggin

Wednesday, Sept. 16

Mitch McConnell raising money for John James

Republican Senate challenger John James is set to hold a private fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night. 

The fundraiser, initially reported by Roll Call, was confirmed by Bridge Michigan, which acquired an invitation to the event at 7 p.m. over Zoom. There is a fee of $1,000 per person or PAC to attend the event.

James, a Farmington Hills businessman, is challenging  first-term Democratic incumbent Gary Peters. Per the invitation, the race is “officially a Toss Up.” Recent polls, per political website FiveThirtyEight, show Peters has a slight edge.

On Aug. 24, Michigan Democrats filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that the James campaign had illegally solicited $4.5 million from the dark money group One Nation, which has reported ties to the Senate majority leader. — Mansur Shaheen

Benson: Michigan could see 60%-70% turnout in November

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Wednesday predicted more than 5 million Michiganders will vote in the presidential election and said she expects more than 3 million will do so by absentee ballot.

That would nearly double the record 1.6 million absentee ballots cast in the August primary and rival total turnout from the 2008 presidential election. Already, 2.3 million Michigan registered voters  have requested absentee ballots, said Benson, adding she expects about 60 percent to 70 percent of the state’s 7.5 million voters to cast ballots.

Michiganders voted to expand absentee voting in 2018, and the coronavirus pandemic has likely spurred additional interest in the option. But voters can still cast ballots in-person on Nov. 3, Benson reminded. 

“When you do show up on Election Day at your local precinct, you will be greeted by workers wearing masks, gloves and face shields,” she said in a COVID-19 news conference with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “You will find the precinct to be sanitized with social distancing guidelines in place.”

Benson, Michigan’s top election official, thanked the Senate for approving legislation on Tuesday that would allow clerks to open absentee ballot mail envelopes a day early to prepare them for counting on Election Day. If approved by the House, clerks hope the pre-processing will help them report election night results in a timely fashion.  

But Benson wants to give clerks more time and implored the Legislature to do more to ensure every vote is counted, such as allowing absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day to be tabulated even if they arrive by mail a day or two late. 

Benson has repeatedly rebutted President Donald Trump’s claim that mail-in voting is unreliable and will lead to voter fraud. On Wednesday, she warned that the state is expecting efforts to mislead or misinform Michiganders about their legal voting options and announced a new reporting email address: misinformation@michigan.gov.

“If you see or hear anything suspicious, anything that sounds wrong or that is just plain confusing about your right to vote this year, report it to my office,” Benson said. — Jonathan Oosting

Ballots fail to include Mike Pence as vice-presidential candidate

About 400 early ballots downloaded by election clerks to be used by military and overseas voters from the state of Michigan have errors, the Michigan Department of State has acknowledged on Twitter.

A photo of the incorrect ballots was obtained by Detroit News and shows the ballot lists Jeremy Cohen instead of Mike Pence as the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate. Cohen is the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, running with its nominee Jo Jorgensen. The Libertarian Party is listed without a vice president on the ballot. Pence does not appear anywhere on the ballots.

“This was the result of an isolated human error and it would not happen again,” the Department of State wrote on Twitter, “We do not know how many of these ballots were sent to voters, but clerks were instructed to immediately alert voters of the error and send a corrected ballot.”

Per the tweet, if a voter does end up using one of the incorrect ballots then their votes will still be counted. — Mansur Shaheen

Tuesday, Sept. 15

Trump rallies ‘fly in the face’ of science, Gretchen Whitmer argues

Republican President Donald Trump's campaign rallies are potential “superspreader events” for COVID-19 and "fly in the face of the best science,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer argued Tuesday. 

The Democrat’s comments came less than one week after Trump drew thousands to a crowded outdoor rally in Saginaw County, where many supporters were photographed without masks.

Whitmer was asked about Trump rallies after joining Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, at a small and socially distanced campaign stop in Battle Creek, according to pool reports. 

"They violate the executive orders, without question," Whitmer said, apparently referencing various public health mandates she has issued, including one order that limits outdoor social gatherings to 250 people but generally exempt events protected by the First Amendment. 

Whitmer is national co-chairwoman of the Biden campaign. 

"We have taken some steps to ensure these venues understand what the law is, and I don't know that there's a whole lot more to add on at this juncture," Whitmer told reporters. — Jonathan Oosting

Monday, Sept. 14

Trump, Biden campaigns plan more Michigan events

The campaigns for President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden plan more events this week in Michigan, after both candidates visited the state last week.

At 7 p.m. Monday, musician Kid Rock, Donald Trump Jr. and former prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle plan a “Make America Great Again!” rally for the Republican president at Bumpers Landing Boat Club in Harrison Township.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic challenger, plans to visit Grand Rapids with 3rd Congressional District Democatic candidate Hillary Scholten, followed by a visit to Battle Creek that day with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Last week, Biden visited with voters Warren and Detroit on Wednesday, while Trump hosted a rally Thursday at MBS International Airport in Saginaw County. — Mansur Shaheen

Friday, Sept. 11

Bernie Sanders, Rashida Tlaib plan virtual town hall

Sen. Bernie Sanders plans a virtual town hall forum at 1 p.m. Saturday with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist; U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit; and others.

The event, which is available at https://live.berniesanders.com, focuses on Michigan issues and also features David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan; Bob King, a former United Auto Workers president; Ken Whittaker, the director of Movement Politics and the Michigan People’s Campaign; and Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia.

The event follows visits to Michigan this week by President Donald Trump and Democratic hopeful Joe Biden. — Mansur Shaheen 

Absentee ballot requests break record

A record 2.1 million requests for absentee ballots have been filed in the state of Michigan ahead of November’s election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement.

The total surpasses the previous record of 2 million, which was set in the state's August  primary.

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Michigan’s citizens enthusiastically want to vote, and are taking advantage of the numerous safe, secure and reliable options they have to do so this year,” Benson said.

Benson called on state legislators to pass laws allowing local clerks to process absentee ballots before Election Day, which is legal in 18 states, and allow them to be counted if they are postmarked before then.

Nearly 9,000 Michigan ballots were rejected in the primary because of mail delays or signature issues in the primary. Republicans have said reforms are unnecessary, pointing to the August primary that saw high absentee balloting and few issues.

Michigan joins Ohio, another crucial swing state in the upcoming presidential election, in setting records for absentee ballot requests leading into November’s election. — Mansur Shaheen

Thursday, Sept. 10

New York Times correspondent booted from Trump rally

LANSING — Kathy Gray has seen a lot in her multi-decade run as one of Michigan's most experienced political reporters. 

But what happened Thursday night at President Donald Trump's rally in Freeland was a first for Gray: The New York Times correspondent was removed from the event after posting photos to Twitter, including those showing “maybe 10%” of Trump supporters wearing masks.

"I had done some interviews and was standing off to the side of the tarmac," Gray told Bridge Michigan. "They tracked me down from the photos I had taken and tweeted, came over and kicked me out." 

Gray said she had entered the Trump rally through general admission because she was unable to obtain media credentials. She had missed Monday's credential request deadline by a day, Gray acknowledged, but subsequently reached out to the campaign multiple times to request access and got no response – until an official saw her tweets and alerted security. 

"They said because I was using my work Twitter account and since I didn't have media credentials I couldn't be working there, and I had to leave," Gray said.

When asked about Gray’s account by Bridge, Trump Victory Michigan spokesperson Chris Gustafson said: “I don’t have anything to say on that.”

Gray said she has had difficulty getting responses from the Trump campaign in recent months. She noted other general admission attendees were tweeting and live streaming the rally from the crowd where she had stood. 

"Everybody there was using a camera to record everything," she said. — Jonathan Oosting and Riley Beggin

Biden misstated military COVID deaths during trip to Warren

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden misspoke during a speech in Warren on Wednesday when referencing how many soldiers had COVID-19, according to a a CNN fact check,

Speaking to union auto workers, Biden said 6,144 military members died of the coronavirus and 118,984 were infected. Per CNN, the numbers cited by Biden were inflated by over 6,100 deaths and nearly 79,000 cases, according to reports by the U.S. Department of Defense

An aide to the Democratic former vice president told CNN that Biden mistakenly cited the death and case totals from the state of Michigan.

His reference to the numbers followed reports in journalist Bob Woodward’s recent book that included audio from February of President Donald Trump saying he planned to publicly downplay the seriousness of the virus, and reports that Trump referred to deceased military members as “losers” and “suckers” behind closed doors. — Mansur Shaheen

Biden makes stops in Detroit

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden made additional stops in Detroit after giving a speech to a small group of union workers in Warren on Wednesday.

Biden stopped at a clothing store in northwest Detroit, where he answered questions about his demand that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration not rush a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day on Nov. 3. The former vice president said he instead wants the agency to take guidance from scientists and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“I hope we have a vaccine — tomorrow would be wonderful. But we’ve got to make sure there’s total transparency,” Biden told reporters, “because you know what’s happened already. [Trump’s] put pressure on some of the agencies to do things that they weren't ready to do.”

The president tweeted on Aug. 22 that the FDA may be delaying the vaccine testing process until after Election Day.

“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” the tweet reads.

Biden made a second stop at the home of state Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, later that day, where he spoke with union officials from U.S. Steel Corp. about the “Made in America” plan he announced earlier in Warren.

Carter, who contracted the coronavirus this year, mentioned the stop on Facebook.  — Mansur Shaheen

Okay, I was sworn to secrecy. Once the police shut down Outer Drive, the secret was out. VP and soon to be President Joe...

Posted by Tyrone Carter on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wednesday, Sept. 9

Whitmer says Trump’s Saginaw County rally 'distressing, to say the least'

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday said President Donald Trump’s planned re-election rally Thursday is “distressing, to say the least” and could spread the coronavirus.

“We have been following the science here in Michigan, we have a mask mandate, we’ve got gathering rules to ensure we don’t have super spreader events,” the Democratic governor told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Whitmer, who is a national co-chair of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, spoke on the eve of the former vice president’s visit to an undisclosed facility in Warren at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday. Trump’s rally is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at MBS International Airport in Freeland in Saginaw County.

Whitmer told CNN that Trump’s visit comes as coronavirus cases have steadily declined in Michigan. Early in the pandemic, Whitmer locked down the state and instituted several protections against indoor gatherings and large events.

“We’ve pushed our curve down, we’ve saved thousands of lives, we’ve gotten people back to work,” Whitmer said. “And events like this threaten all that sacrifice that we’ve made.”

The first major rally the Trump campaign scheduled this summer was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, which attracted large crowds   Weeks later, Tulsa County, and the entire state, saw sharp increases in COVID cases, but Trump’s campaign noted the rally included safety precautions and there was no proof it led to a spike in cases.

The dueling presidential visits in Michigan come as a recent poll shows Biden’s lead narrowing in the state.

“The road to the White House goes right through the state of Michigan. I believe this race is tightening up,” Whitmer told Cooper. “I think that’s precisely why you see both of the candidates appear in this state this week and I would anticipate seeing them many more times between now and Election Day.” — Mansur Shaheen

Tuesday, Sept. 8

Slotkin, Junge announce fall debate schedule

Democratic incumbent Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Republican opponent Paul Junge will participate in three televised debates this fall, the campaigns announced Tuesday in a joint statement. 

Junge, a former Trump immigration official, prosecutor and television anchor, is running to unseat Slotkin, the first-term incumbent representing Michigan’s 8th Congressional district covering portions of Ingham, Livingston and Oakland counties. It’s one of the most competitive congressional districts in the state. 

The debates will take place:

  • Monday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. on WLNS (Lansing)
  • Sunday, Sept. 27 at 10 a.m. on WDIV (Detroit) 
  • Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. on WHMI (Howell)

Slotkin, a former CIA analyst, won the seat from Republican incumbent Mike Bishop in 2018. President Donald Trump won the district by 7 percentage points in 2016. Riley Beggin

Trump, Biden plan dueling visit as race heats up

Republican president Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden this week are set to return to Michigan, which has re-emerged as a key battleground for both campaigns. 

Biden is expected in Warren on Wednesday for a 1:15 p.m. speech on “his plan to ensure the future is Made in America by all of America’s workers,” according to his campaign.  It’ll be the former vice president’s first stop in Michigan since he rallied in Detroit on the eve of the state’s March 10 primary — and his first stop here since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic pandemic that same month. 

Trump is scheduled to speak Thursday evening from a hangar at AvFlight Saginaw, a private aviation company at MBS International Airport in Freeland. Trump last campaigned in Michigan in December, when he held a raucous rally in Battle Creek. He visited the state most recently in May, touring a Ford plant in his official role as president.

The location of Trump’s latest campaign event is a nod to the important role Saginaw County played in Trump’s victory four years ago. It was one of 12 Michigan counties the New York businessman flipped en route to his 10,704-vote statewide win. Former President Barack Obama won Saginaw County by nearly 12 percentage points in 2012, but Trump carried the county by about 1 percentage point four years ago. 

The Trump campaign is offering tickets to the Freeland event online, but it’s not clear how many supporters will attend. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order for COVID-19 limits outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 100 people, but the administration has generally allowed exemptions for activities protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

The dueling visits show both campaigns remain committed to winning Michigan despite early polling favoring Biden. With more recent surveys suggesting a tightening race, the Trump campaign on Monday resumed airing television ads in the state, which Vice President Mike Pence also visited Aug. 28 for a campaign event in Traverse City.  — Jonathan Oosting

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 09/08/2020 - 5:32pm

Vote in person. That is the only way to make your vote count.

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 9:47am

I been voting by mail for over 5 years with NO problems!!!

Sun, 09/13/2020 - 12:27am

How do you know for sure? Do they follow up with people when ballots aren't accepted?

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 11:06am

I called to see if my primary ballot had been received at my township hall because I have become alarmed by all the talk and news stories. There were 3 different male voices standing around the phone that I could here in the back ground. I told them my name and said that I had just called to make sure that my "mail in" ballot had arrived safely to them. Then I heard the man on the phone tell the other men what my call was about and they asked my name and he told them my name and one of them said, "Isn't that the one that we had a question about the signature"? So my advice to all of you is to make sure that your signature on your ballot is an exact match to the one on your driver's license! Do not sign in a hurry. Match it up perfectly because if they do not like who you are voting for they will disqualify you.

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 9:37am

Hi Riley,

Can you tell us if the Slotkin/Junge debates will be streamed or at least available for viewing at a later time?



Fri, 09/11/2020 - 10:44am

Those commercials are a hoot! Republican candidate with Democratic agenda. LMAO.

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 3:16pm

This concern for political rallies from the Governor that delayed shutting down the Michigan economy and forcing residents to stay at home until after all of the [Joe Biden] primary campaign rallies in Michigan and primary voting was done.
Her actions have more of a partisan flavor than a public well being concern.

I call BS
Fri, 09/11/2020 - 10:48am

Everyone is to blame except for Trump who admits he down plays the dangers of Covid. Yet he's in charge.

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 9:48am

Watch the infection rates go up in that area and in other red areas of Michigan likeGrand rapids!!! What does trump spread besides hate and the virus???

Stephen Schmidt
Fri, 09/11/2020 - 8:56am

you are so wrong. Your hate blinds. All the protesters 95%democrats yet a rally or 2 is your target. Typical of you liberals. Disgraceful

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 2:59pm

If the Secretary of State sending out ballot applications is illegal and promotes voter fraud, what is this?


An Ohio-based political advocacy group that shares a Republican-allied law firm with Kanye West’s political campaign is sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications containing misinformation on Democratic candidates to voters in Pennsylvania and Minnesota — both key battleground states for the 2020 election.

Wa, wa, wait a minute!

Fri, 09/11/2020 - 7:48pm

No fact checking for Biden huh?

Joe Biden Claims COVID-19 Military Deaths Over 6000–Actual Number Is 7

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 8:57am

Todd, if you check your facts, you’ll learn that Biden mis-spoke and was citing the Michigan data.

John Chastain
Thu, 09/17/2020 - 9:25am

“Republican Senate challenger John James is set to hold a private fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night“

Not unexpected, James, another Trump sycophant, is a great example of republican tokenism, like Clarence Thomas he’s black and compliant with the conservative oppression of his fellow African American citizens. He’s the perfect candidate for Michigan’s racist republicans and will support McConnell and Trump as they continue to implement their new-Jim Crow agenda.

He’s especially effective in that Michigan Democrats will hesitate to attack him for his otherwise racist rhetoric since its cloaked in a black exterior. The conservatives that regularly comment here will find much to love in this man, the rest of us will recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing when we see one. Like Trump James is a “business” man, and like Trump its a risky “business” of exploitation and predation. Something only a man like McConnell could love.