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Michigan Politics Tracker | Whitmer's call to extend ban on office work draws pushback

Last updated: Wednesday, April 7, 3:43 p.m. This post will be continuously updated with Michigan political and elections news. See Bridge’s complete election 2020 coverage.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday she plans to extend the state’s coronavirus workplace emergency rules, which include a ban on in-person office work.

Talking to reporters, Whitmer said an extension is necessary because COVID-19 cases continue to climb. The rules are due to expire April 14.

“When we do extend them, which we will, people aren't going to think that that means you can't go to the office for another six months,” Whitmer said. 

“But by law, we have to give this second extension so that we've got some of the tools.”

The current emergency rule by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration was signed on Oct. 14 and requires employers to “create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.”

The emergency rules also establish health monitoring protocols for employers and require the use of personal protective equipment.  Whitmer said her administration is working with businesses and public health experts to come up with a new order. 

Her comments have already received pushback from the Reopen Michigan Safely coalition, which was formed by the Michigan Chamber to Commerce and local chambers. The group called the decision “bad news” for the state’s economy. 

Kara Beer, the president of the Battle Creek Chamber (a member of the coalition), said in a statement the extension of the rules will further the economic loss in the state. 

“Michigan businesses have been dealt another defeating blow with the extension of the MIOSHA ruling,” Beer said in a statement. “Another mandate for an additional six months of working from home and prohibiting employees to safely return to the office may cause businesses to never recover, closing more brick-and-mortar businesses in our communities.” — Sergio Martínez-Beltrán and Jonathan Oosting


Wednesday, April 7

Biden kills Medicaid work rules in Michigan

Michigan cannot require Medicaid recipients to report proof of employment to qualify for the government-run health insurance program, President Joe Biden's administration decided this week.

A 2018 law approved by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder sought to require people on the Healthy Michigan expanded Medicaid eligibility plan to work at least 80 hours per month or risk losing coverage.

A federal judge had suspended the law in early 2020, and the Biden administration effectively killed it on Tuesday by revoking a waiver that had allowed it in the first place. The decision follows revocations of similar rules in states including Arkansas and New Hampshire.

Elizabeth Richter, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told Michigan the work requirements are "infeasible" given ongoing COVID-19 restrictions requiring coverage. She also said the administration has "serious concerns" that people could lose health coverage due to reporting errors.

The Trump administration had opened the door to work requirements in 2017 by inviting states to submit waiver requests. Republican legislators who pushed the Michigan law championed it as an economic tool to help businesses struggling to find workers.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who opposed the policy as onerous to lower-income residents, celebrated its demise.

“The Biden administration’s decision to uphold crucial access to health care is life-changing news for the tens of thousands of Michiganders who were in danger of losing their health coverage if the requirements were implemented,” Whitmer said in a statement. 

“No one deserves to be kicked off their health insurance when they need it most, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and historic recession." —Jonathan Oosting



Saturday, March 27

Weiser apologizes for 'witches' comments

Update: Weiser: ‘I won’t be canceled,’ after U-M regents call for his resignation

Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser apologized Saturday for referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel as “witches” and joking about assassination.

Related: Michigan GOP chair calls Whitmer, Nessel, Benson ‘witches’ who should be burned

“In an increasingly vitriolic political environment, we should all do better to treat each other with respect, myself included. I fell short of that the other night,” Weiser said in a written statement. 

“I apologize to those I offended for the flippant analogy about three women who are elected officials and for the off-hand comments about two other leaders. I have never advocated for violence and never will. While I will always fight for the people and policies I believe in, I pledge to be part of a respectful political dialogue going forward.”

Weiser is facing criticism and calls to resign from his other post as a University of Michigan regent for a Thursday speech to Oakland County Republican activists that went viral.

Weiser said Republicans are recruiting GOP challengers to “soften up” the “three witches” so they’re “ready for the burning at the stake."

He also joked that “other than assassination, I have no other way” of removing Republican U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township, who upset Republicans for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The apology is more direct than Friday, when Weiser wrote on Twitter that he “should have chosen my words more carefully,” added they were “clearly being taken out of context” and claimed they “received more scrutiny from the media and leftists in the last 24 hours than the governor’s handling of COVID."

Benson's spokesperson, Jake Rollow, issued a statement later Saturday asking "the people of Michigan deserve more than a half-apology when the leader of one of our two major political parties suggests violence over democracy."

At least four U-M regents, all Democrats, have called on Weiser to resign. He said he won't.


Wednesday, March 24

Whitmer vetoes bill to limit her COVID powers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday vetoed a Republican bill that would have prohibited the Michigan health department from extending COVID-19 orders beyond 28 days without legislative approval. 

The veto was expected — Whitmer rejected nearly identical legislation last year — but the GOP tried to apply more pressure this time by tying the measure to $347 million in spending on coronavirus contact tracing and lab testing, which is now in limbo. 

"Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days," Whitmer wrote in a veto letter. "We should not limit our ability to respond to them."

The fate of the $347 million in COVID-19 relief spending that was tied to the bill is not immediately known. Earlier this month, in vetoing another bill that Republicans linked to $841 million in federal school funding, Whitmer said her legal team was reviewing that question. 

The nearly $1.2 billion won’t need to be returned to the federal government anytime soon. How and when it is spent will likely depend on future negotiations by Whitmer and GOP legislative leaders, who are locked in a feud over her ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. — Jonathan Oosting


Tuesday, March 23

Senate approves Hertel as health director

Senate Republicans on Tuesday continued their protest against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 orders but stopped just short of rejecting the appointment of her new state health director. 

Elizabeth Hertel, a former GOP legislative aide who Whitmer appointed in January, will remain director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Related:

Sixteen Senate Republicans voted to block Hertel, with several voicing concerns she will work in “lockstep” with Whitmer to continue restrictions they deem overly onerous. 

But GOP Leader Mike Shirkey and three colleagues joined Democrats to approve the appointment in a 18-16 vote. It was a symbolic move because the upper chamber only has the authority to "disapprove" appointments within 60 days, and the GOP did not have the 19 votes needed to do so. 

“My vote in favor of Elizabeth Hertel’s appointment does not reflect agreement with her decisions as deputy director and now as director of MDHHS, but rather my belief that her background and expertise make her qualified for the job,” Shirkey said in a statement. 

“In our conversations, I have made it clear to Elizabeth that I will continue to push for an end to the nonsensical loophole that allows the department director to control and harm the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders for months or even years on end.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Republican majority approved separate legislation that would prohibit the state from limiting family gatherings at sporting events, restaurants or private residences. That measure now heads to the House. — Jonathan Oosting

Senate panel OKs open records reforms

A bipartisan package to allow the governor and Legislature to be subject to open records requests has advanced in the Michigan Senate, although its fate remains unclear. 

Related:

On Tuesday, the Senate Oversight Committee voted to send the measures to the Senate floor after the House approved identical protocols last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey,  R-Clarklake, has blocked similar reforms before and hasn’t publicly said whether he would allow a vote this term. His office didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, told Bridge Michigan he is in conversations with Shirkey to help clarify any concerns.

“(Shirkey) also is, I think, properly concerned about the ability for senators and legislators to get the work done and maintain the confidentiality of their constituents and their ability to have discussions — plain and frank discussions — among themselves,” said McBroom, the Upper Peninsula lawmaker who chairs the Senate Oversight Committee.

McBroom the package has provisions that “will not unduly impact those activities” and is optimistic about its prospects.

Michigan is only one of two states that exempt the legislative and executive branches from open records laws. Under the reform, both branches would have to provide documents and records upon request and payment of costs and fees. 

However, the proposal includes a lengthy list of exemptions. Additionally, the bill forbids lawsuits if the Legislature rejects records requests.

The bills are supported by Republicans and Democrats, as well as a coalition that includes the Michigan Press Association, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union.

But Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said she is concerned about loopholes she said would allow lawmakers to delete emails before they become public records. Liberal group Progress Michigan has also criticized the proposal, saying it doesn’t go far enough.

McBroom pushed back, saying the exemptions “are, in my mind, quite small.”

“Progress Michigan in particular is a little laughable because they supported the exact same bills in the past, so now they decided to complain,” McBroom said. “Progress should be progress, and we are making some progress here.”

Progress Michigan announced plans to collect signatures to require a ballot proposal in 2022 to fully repeal exemptions to the governor’s office and Legislature in the state’s Freedom of Information Act, which governs open records requests. — Sergio Martínez-Beltrán


Thursday, March 18

House passes bills to allow bars to stay open later

Bars could serve alcohol until 4 a.m. under bipartisan legislation advanced Thursday by the Michigan House.

The proposal, approved in a 61-47 vote, would require “opt-in” by cities, villages or townships, where local leaders could adopt resolutions if they want to allow liquor license holders to serve beyond 2 a.m.

Qualifying bars or restaurants that decided to serve until 4 a.m. would also have to pay an extra $250 a year for a night permit on top of their annual liquor license fee.

Similar proposals have bounced around the Legislature for years, but House sponsors say the plan is especially timely given COVID-19 closure orders that have been particularly brutal for bars and restaurants.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, which did not vote on similar House-approved bills last year. — Jonathan Oosting


Tuesday, March 16

Holland man charged with threats to Democrats

A Michigan man faces up to 20 years in prison on allegations he threatened the lives of President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a meme-based social media site. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday announced felony charges against Joshua Doctor of Holland, who is accused of threatening to commit an act of terrorism and using a computer to do so. 

In a statement, Nessel said the case was initiated by the FBI, which received tips about posts on a social media site called iFunny and handed the investigation over to Michigan State Police. 

Those posts detailed threats to kill Biden, Pelosi and Whitmer — all Democrats — while claiming to be "the catalyst" for a new American revolution. Nessel alleged Doctor also had "information on how to make a bomb and where to find the necessary materials"  on his phone.

“Threatening elected officials is against the law and my office will prosecute those who attempt to intimidate or terrorize our state and federal leaders,” Nessel said in a statement. — Jonathan Oosting


Monday, March 15

Nessel won't investigate Whitmer's nursing home policies

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday rebuffed Republican lawmakers calling for her to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s policies for nursing homes hit hard early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Though I will not hesitate to act when justified, I also will not abuse the investigatory powers of this department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs,” Nessel said in a five-page letter to the eight state senators who had sought the probe. 

The request was spearheaded by Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, who had joined colleagues in raising concerns over Whitmer’s nursing home orders, the accuracy of death data reported by the state, compliance with federal health guidelines and the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. 

Michigan has reported more than 5,500 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities since March, which is about 1 out of every 3 pandemic-related deaths to date. 

According to federal figures, Michigan has had the 16th highest rate of nursing homes deaths per 1,000 residents.

Republicans have questioned the Michigan data amid revelations of an undercount scandal in New York under embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But “the situation here is completely different,” Nessel told the GOP lawmakers, noting Whitmer’s office complied with a previous request for information from the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The GOP has also criticized an initial Whitmer policy that directed Michigan nursing homes to accept COVID-19 transfers from hospitals if they had established dedicated isolation units to care for the contagious patients. 

But there is no evidence to suggest state policies resulted in increased deaths, Nessel said. 

“In any event, bad policy alone would not be grounds for an investigation by my office,” she told legislators. 

“The suggestion that these public health policy decisions, by themselves, should be investigated because different approaches could have resulted in fewer deaths is inappropriate and violates well-established ethical guidelines for investigations by law enforcement agencies.”

Runestad, in a statement, accused Nessel of an “abdication of responsibility” and said her refusal to investigate “is an insult to every family member who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home.” 

“Upholding the law shouldn’t be about Republicans versus Democrats. It should be about making the right choice, holding public officials accountable and standing up for the most vulnerable and their families,” he said. — Jonathan Oosting


Thursday, March 11

GOP leaders may sue Whitmer over pandemic

Michigan’s Republican-led Senate is gearing up for another potential legal fight with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her pandemic powers.

The Senate on Thursday adopted a resolution allowing Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to sue Whitmer if she tries to spend $1.2 billion in federal aid for schools and testing that Republicans had conditioned upon her approving separate bills to limit the state health department’s authority.

Whitmer vetoed one of those bills Tuesday, rejecting a proposal that would have prohibited the state from closing schools or sporting events in the event of future outbreaks. The bill would have only allowed local officials to do so.

The governor also expected to veto a bill that would prohibit her administration from extending epidemic orders beyond 28 days without legislative approval.

The standoff has put $841 million in federal funding for K-12 schools and $347 million for testing in limbo because Republicans had used a legislative procedure called a “tie-bar” to attach the policy bills to a $4.2 billion spending plan that Whitmer signed parts of this week. 

Whitmer said Tuesday her legal team is still reviewing whether the administration can spend the money anyway. Democratic attorney Steven Liedel has argued the governor could declare the tie-bars unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable because the policy bills are not directly related to the spending legislation.

But Senate Republicans, in a resolution sponsored by Appropriations Chairman Jim Stamas of Midland, argued that spending those federal relief dollars now would be “contrary to both law and Michigan’s constitutional system.”

The Michigan Senate “must defend the Legislature’s role to appropriate moneys as a co-equal branch of government,” said the resolution, which was approved in a party-line vote. — Jonathan Oosting


Thursday, March 4

Democrat says Gordon left because of restaurant policy

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won’t say why she gave a $155,000 severance to a health director who claimed to resign effectively, but one fellow Democrat says the reason is “obvious.”

Former Michigan Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon was effectively fired because he did not want to reopen restaurant dining rooms as soon as Whitmer did, said Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who acknowledged his claim is based on “circumstantial evidence.”

Gordon abruptly resigned Jan. 22, the same day he signed — and Whitmer announced — a new COVID-19 order allowing restaurants to reopen their dining rooms at 25 percent capacity.  

The former health director declined to explain resignation at the time, and later signed a separation agreement that prohibits him from discussing the circumstances that led to his departure. 

“Isn’t it obvious what happened here?” Irwin said Thursday. “The governor wanted restaurants reopened more quickly. Director Gordon wanted to be more cautious, and so he lost his job and a severance was granted.”

Emails from his final days in office, first reported by The Detroit News but obtained by Bridge Michigan, give no indication Gordon was planning to resign. 

He did, however, tell a colleague it would be a “relief” if Whitmer did not want him to attend the morning press conference in which she announced the new restaurant rules. 

Gordon’s successor, Elizabeth Hertel, on Thursday acknowledged that Whitmer and Gordon may have had policy differences on issues like reopening the economy and schools. 

“Yes, it’s possible,” Hertel said in testimony before the Senate Advice and Consent Committee, where Republican majorities are considering whether to reject her appointment by a March 23 deadline. 

Irwin said he did not know enough about Gordon’s separation agreement and circumstances to determine whether a payout was appropriate, but he questioned why Republicans are so mad at Whitmer considering they too had wanted Gordon to relax COVID-19 regulations faster. 

“It’s contrary to their whole message, which is that the governor is a tyrant and kept us under lock and key for a whole year, which is not true,” Irwin said.

Republicans have decried the deal as “hush money” intended to prevent Gordon from discussing controversial COVID-19 orders that were developed behind closed doors by the Whitmer administration. 

Whitmer has said there were “no improprieties” with Gordon’s work and claimed separation agreements are “used often,” which experts say is not the case in government, where they are less common than the private sector. — Jonathan Oosting


Wednesday, Feb. 24

Michigan House votes to rein in lame duck

The Michigan House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a reform proposal by Speaker Jason Wentworth that would rein in so-called lame duck sessions by forcing bipartisan agreement to pass legislation. 

The plan, now heading to the Senate, would require 2/3 majority support from lawmakers in both chambers to approve bills in the two-month period following even-year presidential and gubernatorial elections. 

Wentworth, R-Farwell, said the proposal would end the kind of partisan hijinks that dominated the Legislature when his own party had total control of state government from 2011 through 2018. 

Democrats are optimistic that new district boundaries will give them an opportunity to secure legislative majorities of their own, but limiting lame-duck is good policy no matter who is in charge, said Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon.

Lawmakers have used the sessions to approve some “pretty terrible” bills, and rushing to pass a flurry of legislation in the immediate aftermath of an election is “just not the way state government should be operating,” Sabo said.

“This is not a Republican lame-duck issue, and it’s not a Democratic lame-duck issue. It’s about what’s right.”

The plan passed the House in a 102-7 vote, but still faces a long road. Because it proposes to amend the state Constitution, the plan also requires supermajority support in the Michigan Senate, where longer tenured Republicans have been hesitant to enact structural reforms to the Legislature. If the Senate does adopt, the proposal would go to the next statewide ballot for voters to decide. – Jonathan Oosting


Tuesday, Feb. 23

Attorney General Dana Nessel charges two men for presidential election threats

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday announced misdemeanor criminal charges against two men accused of making threats against public officials in relation to the November presidential election.

Daniel Thompson of Michigan is accused of leaving a threatening message for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and making vulgar and threatening calls to U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin's office. 

In a Jan. 5 voicemail to Stabenow, a man who identified himself as a Republican said he was angry about the results of the November election, which Congress certified the following day despite rioting by supporters of former President Donald Trump. 

The caller said he "joined a Michigan militia and that there would be violence if the election results were not changed," according to Nessel's office, which said he also reiterated threats in a follow-up email to Stabenow's office. 

In a separate Jan. 19 call to Slotkin's office, a man told a congressional staffer that "people will die" and used violent references while describing the Capitol insurrection, according to Nessel's office which said he had made another threatening call to Slotkin nine months earlier.

Thompson, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, is charged with three counts of malicious use of a telecommunications service, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A second man, Clinton Stewart of Georgia, is charged with one count of the same crime for allegedly leaving a threatening voicemail message for Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens on Sept. 18 as she considered a lawsuit over absentee ballot deadlines. 

“It is unacceptable and illegal to intimidate or threaten public officials,” Nessel said in a statement. “To those who think they can do so by hiding behind a keyboard or phone, we will find you and we will prosecute you, to the fullest extent of the law.” – Jonathan Oosting


Wednesday, Feb. 17

Joe Biden delays visit to Michigan by one day

President Joe Biden will return to Michigan on Friday, rather than Thursday, to tour a Pfizer manufacturing site in Portage, according to the White House. 

The White House announced the new schedule on Wednesday night but did not specify a reason. The Detroit News reports the trip was delayed a day because of a snowstorm expected to hit the Washington region on Thursday. 

Biden is expected to meet with Prizer workers producing the pharmaceutical company's COVID-19 vaccine, one of two currently approved for use in the United States. — Jonathan Oosting


Saturday, Feb. 13

President Joe Biden coming to Michigan

President Joe Biden will travel to the Kalamazoo area on Thursday to tour a Pfizer manufacturing site and visit with workers producing the pharmaceutical company’s COVID-19 vaccine, according to the White House. 

Additional details of the trip are expected later in the week. 

Biden visited Michigan multiple times during his 2020 campaign, but this will be his first trip to the state since winning the presidential election. 

Pfizer, headquartered in Portage near Kalamazoo,  developed and produces one of two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States. To date, about 25 million Prizer doses have been administered nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. — Jonathan Oosting


Friday, Feb. 12

Statewide audit affirms Michigan 2020 election result

After months of false allegations of election fraud, a statewide audit has confirmed the accuracy of Michigan’s Nov. 3 election results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on Friday.

In the statewide risk-limiting election audit, Michigan officials hand-counted more than 18,000 ballots randomly selected from 1,300 jurisdictions. The process affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in the state by 154,000 votes, Benson said.

The percentage of votes for the Democrat Biden and former President Donald Trump, a Republican, was within fractions of a percentage point of the results tabulated by machines.

The Bureau of Elections began conducting the risk-limiting audits during the 2018 midterm elections. In her latest plans for election reform, Benson has proposed allowing for audits before the certification of election results, which election law now bars.

Benson and other elections officials have called the 2020 presidential election the most secure in the nation’s history.

“The work of elected leaders now is to tell voters the truth and move forward with nonpartisan election policy to advance the will of Michigan voters, who have demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that they want our elections to continue to be secure, strong and accessible,” Benson said. — Madeline Halpert


Thursday, Feb. 11

Former House Speaker Lee Chatfield lands new job

Update: Lee Chatfield fought LGBT rights in Lansing. He’s on board in Kalamazoo.
Update:
 Southwest Michigan First admits it has ‘work to do’ after Chatfield flap

Former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, seen by some Republicans as a potential candidate for governor in 2022, has landed a new job outside of state government. 

Southwest Michigan First has hired Chatfield as its new Chief Executive Officer, the Kalamazoo-based economic development organization announced Thursday.  

Chatfield, who hails from Levering in northern Michigan, was term limited out of the state House last year. He was a teacher and athletic director at a Christian school in Burt Lake before winning election to the Legislature in 2014. 

“There’s so much more we can do to grow and assist people in these challenging times," Chatfield said in a statement celebrating his new job in Kalamazoo. 

"I’m ready to get to work with a very talented team that’s already serving on the frontlines and impacting people’s lives daily. I can’t wait to be in this community with my family and serve alongside this incredible team.”

Republicans are struggling to recruit a top-tier candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer next year. Former Congresswoman Candice Miller, who is now Macomb County’s public works commissioner,  announced last month she will not seek the job.  —Jonathan Oosting


Wednesday, Feb. 10

Judge delays Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnap trial

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a defense lawyer’s request to push back the trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by nearly seven months. 

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker delayed the trial from March to October after defendant Brandon Caserta asked for more time to sort through evidence including thousands of hours of audio recording, thousands of pages of messaging, videos and information from paid informants.

The decision comes two weeks after a Hartland Township man and airline mechanic Ty Garbin pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the plot. According to the plea agreement, Garbin admitted to conducting surveillance at Whitmer’s vacation home and attending training sessions, and agreed to fully cooperate with the FBI.

Garbin and five other men were first arrested in October on charges of plotting to kidnap the governor.  

 In all, 14 people were charged with crimes at the federal and state level in connection with the plot. Some had ties to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen.

The trial for the five men is set to begin Oct. 12 in Grand Rapids. — Madeline Halpert


Tuesday, Feb. 9

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urges GOP to allocate COVID-19 funds

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday again called on the Republican Legislature to distribute all of the state’s federal COVID-19 funds to get students back to school and support vaccination efforts.

“Delaying efforts to fully appropriate these resources and leaving dollars on the table that are so crucial to our economic recovery, it threatens the progress that we have made to date,” she said. 

The criticisms come hours after Senate Republicans unveiled their own proposal on Tuesday with plans to distribute $2 billion of the funding, while the Democratic governor has proposed $5 billion in her supplemental spending plan. GOP lawmakers have suggested holding funds back would allow for more oversight of the spending.

Whitmer pushed back on the claims and said the delay could hinder Michigan’s vaccination effort. The state is 22nd among states in the number of vaccinations per 100,000 people. 

Whitmer on Tuesday said the state has had a 16 percent increase in vaccination rates which is “not nearly as fast” as necessary but “headed in the right direction.” Overall, 11 percent of Michiganders 16 years and older have been vaccinated. 

Overall case numbers and deaths are declining, according to Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun.

 Khaldun sounded alarms about the variant cases, which she said are now associated with individuals with no recent travel history, indicating a spread in the general community.  

 Still, Whitmer repeated her calls for all school districts to offer in-person, safe learning options for students by March 1.

 She said she is continuing to reach out to the Republican Legislature, and remains hopeful for more funding negotiations in the future.  

“But that hasn’t really happened in any meaningful way at this juncture,” she said.  —Madeline Halpert


Thursday, Feb. 4

Republicans pass $3B COVID relief plan 

Michigan House Republicans on Thursday approved a $3 billion coronavirus relief plan that would use nearly $2 billion in federal school funding as leverage in an attempt to force policy concessions by Democratic Gov. Gretechen Whitmer.

Whitmer would likely veto the proposal should it also pass the Senate and reach her desk. She’s called on the Legislature to approve a larger $5.6 billion plan that would utilize all federal funding made available to the state by Congress. 

The House proposal would allocate only a portion of available federal funding, leaving roughly $2 billion in COVID relief dollars to be negotiated later. 

The plan would send $1.8 billion to K-12 schools, but only if Whitmer signs a separate bill that would prohibit her state health department from closing schools or high school sporting events in the future. Instead, only a local health department could do so, and only if the region met certain metrics for COVID-19. 

Democrats accused Republicans of holding the COVID relief funds “hostage,” but House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, denied the claim. 

“God willing, we will get this package quickly to the governor’s desk, and she will have a choice,” Albert said. “Nothing is being withheld here.” 

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, tried but failed to force a vote on a separate bill that mirrors Whitmer’s larger spending plan. 
“Instead of trickling out available funds, we have an opportunity today to dispense all of the funds that Michiganders deserve and without delay,” Rabhi said. “We cannot keep pretending that this pandemic will magically end in a month or two. We know that isn’t true.” — Jonathan Oosting


Feb. 3, 2021

Rep. Peter Meijer defends impeachment vote at town hall

During U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer’s first virtual town hall Wednesday evening, the freshman lawmaker defended his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

“The attempted insurrection, the involvement of a sitting American president . . . required a significant response,” he said. 

Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, was one of 10 Republican representatives who voted to impeach the former president after he incited a mob of supporters who breached the Capitol building and clashed with police officers in a siege that left five dead.

But Meijer’s explanation wasn’t enough for some residents from his 3rd Congressional District in west Michigan. One said he “could not have been more disappointed” in Meijer.

“I went against people who told me not to vote for you because I believed in you,” another constituent told Meijer. “And I’ve lost that belief.”

Meijer stood his ground, saying  read several reports of election fraud, but “I struggled to substantiate anything.” 

Other constituents lauded Meijer for voting his conscience.

“I know that must’ve been a really hard decision,” a constituent said. “I just wanted to let you know that I think you did the right thing. I didn’t vote for you but right now I’m sure glad you’re my representative.” —Madeline Halpert


Monday, Feb. 1

Jocelyn Benson calls on lawmakers to pass elections reforms

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Monday called on the Legislature to adopt election reforms she said will make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” for citizens in Michigan. 

Benson had advocated for several of the measures before the 2020 presidential election, including an additional two weeks for clerks to process absentee ballots and a ban of firearms within 100 feet of polling places.

The Republican-led Legislature, though, rejected calls from Benson and a group of bipartisan clerks to allow for more time to count ballots in preparation for a surge of absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has since said he supports the measure.

Other changes proposed by Benson on Monday include:

  • Requiring absentee ballot applications to be mailed to registered voters every federal election cycle
  • Making Election Day a statewide holiday
  • Allowing for a statewide risk-limiting audit of election results prior to certification
  • Allowing military ballots to be returned electronically

Benson said she hopes Republicans can “work from the same set of facts” as the Secretary of State’s office when determining how to advance the vote and protect democracy.”

She also called on Michigan lawmakers — some of whom endorsed unsubstantiated election fraud allegations from President Donald Trump and his supporters during the November election — to acknowledge the claims are false.

"If these legislators truly want to support elections, their task is simple: Tell the voters the truth,” she said.  — Madeline Halpert


Wednesday, Jan. 27

Militia member pleads guilty to Whitmer kidnapping plot

A Michigan militia member accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pleaded guilty to federal charges on Wednesday and agreed to testify against his alleged co-conspirators.

Ty Garbin, 25, an airplane mechanic from Hartland Township in Livingston County, pleaded guilty to a federal kidnapping conspiracy charge punishable by up to life in prison with no parole in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids.

Garbin was arrested in October and charged with a plot to kidnap Whitmer and either strand her on a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan or put her on trial in another state. Prosecutors alleged defendants called the governor a “tyrant” for imposing stay-at-home restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is among 13 total militia members facing federal and state charges in the plot prosecutors allege involved surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan, plans to buy $4,000 worth of explosives and firearms training at a property Garbin owned near Luther in Lake County.

Court documents allege Garbin was a member of the Wolverine Watchmen and met the accused leader of the group, Adam Fox, at a Second Amendment Rally outside the state Capitol in June.  Prosecutors said Fox initially planned to recruit 200 men to storm the Capitol and capture politicians to put them on trial on television. Madeline Halpert


Tuesday, Jan. 26

Auditors criticize Michigan spending during pandemic

Michigan auditors released a report Tuesday criticizing the Department of Technology, Management and Budget for how it spent millions of dollars on emergency COVID-19 purchases.

The report from Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler said the agency wired $96.9 million to 15 vendors before goods and services were received, and allowed credit cards to be used by more than one employee when purchasing pandemic emergency supplies.

"Assigned cardholders allowed other employees to use their procurement cards to make emergency purchases of $35.2 million, exposing the state to potential abuse and misuse of state funds," Ringler wrote in the report.

The report also alleged that, as of September 2020, the state lost $24,896 after it wired $4.9 million to an out-of-state vendor. The money had been spent by the vendor before the state stopped payment when a financial institution flagged the vendor.

In response, the audit recommended DTMB “strengthen its internal control” and revise policies to address risks related to emergency purchases, which DTMB said it agreed with the report.

But the agency pushed back on another recommendation to ensure credit cards are only assigned to one person.    

“During the height of the pandemic, there was an extraordinarily high level of demand for personal protective equipment *(PPE) which far exceeded the supply. . .DTMB needed to have additional buyers available to make purchases at a moment’s notice,” the agency wrote in response.

Ringler disagreed, saying the agency’s delay in providing documentation and valid receipts for the purchases, and its failure to ensure the emergency credit cards were canceled, suggested a need for continued review of the agency’s transactions. — Madeline Halpert


Friday, Jan. 22

Judge upholds Michigan's term limit law

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit from 10 former lawmakers seeking to overturn Michigan’s term limits law, which is among the strictest in the nation.

U.S. Judge Janet Neff of Michigan’s western district ruled the case is without merit, noting that a court already upheld the limits that voters approved in 1992.

In Michigan, representatives cannot serve more than three two-year terms, while state senators are limited to two four-year terms.

“Michigan voters took action three decades ago to change our state constitution, and that amendment has now held up twice in a court of law,” Attorney General Dana Nessel after the ruling. 

“I appreciate the court’s ruling and review of the case law on this matter, and while the legal challenges have failed, the Michigan Constitution – and term limits for our lawmakers – remain something voters can revisit and amend through lawful means as they deem appropriate.” 

The suit from former Democratic and Republican lawmakers was filed in 2019 against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Overall, 15 states have some form of term limits and Michigan's are thought to be among the most severe because of the six-year limit on House members. 


Wednesday, Jan. 20

Judge approves Flint water crisis settlement

Flint residents can start registering to receive their share of a landmark legal settlement tied to the Flint water crisis, after a federal judge on Thursday granted preliminary approval of the $641.2 million settlement with the state of Michigan and other parties.

Residents have until March 29 to register to participate in the settlement

Not everyone in Flint is eligible to receive money. The proposed settlement includes 30 claims categories (listed on pages 379 to 422 of this document) to account for people harmed by the water crisis.

The bulk of the settlement money, about 80 percent, will go to people who were minors when Flint switched its water source in 2014. Much of the rest will go to adults who can prove they suffered physical harm or property damage as a result of the crisis.

Once registered, residents have until Aug. 26 to submit documents supporting their claims. That could include medical records, evidence of property damage or other paperwork.

Before funds can be released, U.S. District Judge Judge Judith Levy must grant final approval. First, she’ll hold a public hearing July 12.

Some Flint activists have criticized the settlement, arguing it excludes too many city residents who should be eligible for money. Proponents of the settlement say it's good for the city.

Most of the settlement funds come from Michigan’s state government, which has agreed to pay $600 million for the crisis that tainted the city’s water with lead. Three other parties — City of Flint, McLaren Regional Medical Center and Rowe Professional Services Co.  — have also signed on to the settlement to bring the total pot to $641.2 million.

Lawyers for Flint residents continue to pursue lawsuits against two engineering firms that did not join the settlement, as well as a separate lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

“This is another important day for the residents of Flint, and a further step in the process of receiving justice,” co-lead counsel Ted Leopold said in a statement. “I encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for financial relief to visit flintwaterjustice.com to learn more.” Kelly House


Tuesday, Jan. 20

Republican chair-to-be defends running mate 

The incoming chair of the Michigan Republican Party is standing by his future co-chair despite her role in the “stop the steal” movement that spread conspiracy theories to try and overturn President Joe Biden’s election.

In a Monday email to supporters, obtained by Bridge Michigan, Ron Weiser doubled down on his partnership with Meshawn Maddock. She is co-founder of the Michigan Trump Republicans who was in Washington ,D.C. on Jan. 6 amid protests but has said she was not part of the group that stormed the U.S. Capitol. 

Weiser and Maddock, who organized bus trips to Washington for the Trump protest, are set to take over the GOP leadership following the state convention in February. Maddock’s pending leadership role has caused a rift within the Michigan GOP, but Weiser urged Republicans to unite to defeat “those who are working to undermine and destroy the very values that built our country.”

Weiser, a real estate magnate, has faced public pressure to resign his post as a University of Michigan regent because of his initial response to the insurrection. He appeared to address the controversy in his Monday email, accusing Democrats and “mainstream media” of “launching an all out assault on everyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do with their cancel culture.”

“I along with Republicans across our state and nation have been mocked, threatened and attacked” over the past three weeks, Weiser wrote. 

“They want us divided. They want us unfocused. They want us fighting one another instead of fighting their disastrous policies. We cannot allow that to happen. I will not mince words: We are facing the greatest threats to freedom that our Republic has ever seen.” — Jonathan Oosting

Tuesday, Jan. 19

Whitmer to attend inauguration

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is headed to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Whitmer will serve as co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Biden recently nominated Whitmer to serve as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Security measures include 15,000 National Guard troops and steel fencing after a mob of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. in riots. Enhanced security remains in place at state capitals nationwide, including in Lansing.

The inauguration will begin at 11:30 a.m. and Biden and Harris will be sworn in at noon, when President Donald Trump’s term comes to an end. You can watch the ceremony here

“I am honored to attend the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and ready to begin working closely with each of them to fight this virus, save lives, and put the country back on track,” Whitmer said in a statement. —Madeline Halpert


Whitmer names new GOP canvasser

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday appointed Republican Tony Daunt to succeed Aaron Van Langevelde on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. 

On Monday, Van Langevelde told Bridge Michigan he was not surprised by the Michigan Republican Party’s decision not to renominate him for the role after he certified Democrat Joe Biden’s win in November. 

Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund was appointed for a four-year term to the four-member board that is paid $75 per meeting. The Dewitt resident is one of three GOP activists nominated by the Michigan Republican Party for the post, along with Tori Sachs and Linda Lee Tarver, who endorsed several unproven allegations of election fraud. 

Daunt has spoken out against false fraud claims and said the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol “was an outgrowth of the rhetoric, lies, and conspiracies spread by the President and other elected Republicans.”

On Monday, Van Langevelde said in a statement that although his decision to certify the state’s election results angered many in the Republican Party, his “conscience is clear.”

“I hope the next appointee upholds the oath of office, tells the truth, and follows the law just as I have tried to do,” he said. — Madeline Halpert


Snyder wants Flint charges dropped

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s legal team signalled an aggressive defense Tuesday, arguing misdemeanor Flint water crisis charges issued last week should be immediately dismissed on the grounds they were filed in the wrong venue. 

In a pretrial hearing in Genesee County, Snyder attorney Brian Lennon argued the former governor should not be tried in 67th District Court because he worked in Lansing — and the attorney promised motions requesting dismissal and access to secret evidence presented to a one-judge grand jury. 

“The indictment is fatally flawed because it’s charged Gov. Snyder with crimes that allegedly occurred in Genesee County,” Lennon told Judge William H. Crawford II. “At all times through the indictment Gov. Sndyer was in his office in the Romney Building in downtown Lansing.”

Lennon called the accusations against Snyder “false” and questioned whether prosecutors had access to communications that should have been shielded by attorney-client privilege.

Lennon first raised those and other concerns in a Monday night email to Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who last week announced willful neglect of duty charges against Sndyer, along with other felony and misdemeanor indictments against eight other state and local officials. 

State prosecutors signalled they were not prepared to respond to Lennon immediately because the defense had not yet filed the promised motions. 

“We don’t intend to litigate this by email and informal discussion, but rather as we would any criminal case,” said special assistant attorney general Molly Kettler. “We would like to have motions filed.”

Crawford, saying he’d like to “keep this case on the normal track” as much as possible, asked prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss the motions and evidence requests in a private break-out room before returning in virtual court for additional public discussion later Tuesday. 

“I don’t know how long this case might take, but in August or September or this time next year, somebody might look back and say, ‘Whoa… we should have done more,’” Crawford said. — Jonathan Oosting


Monday, Jan. 18

Republicans move to replace canvasser who certified Biden victory

A Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers said on Monday the Michigan Republican Party plans to replace him after he voted to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s win in November. 

Aaron Van Langevelde was one of two Republican members of the four-member Board of State Canvassers who faced pressure from party activists to block the certification of the state’s election results on Nov. 23. Norm Shinkle, the other Republican canvasser, abstained from the vote, while Van Langevelde said he carried out a “clear legal duty” by voting to certify. 

Van Langevelde’s four-year term expires Jan. 31, and he told Bridge Michigan in an email the party’s decision not to renominate him is no surprise.

He said his choice to certify election results upset many in the Republican Party who “have not reached out since then.”

“While some are critical of my decision to certify the election, I am convinced that I did the right thing regardless of personal or professional consequences and despite the pressures and dangers faced,” Van Langevelde, a policy adviser and lawyer for the House Republican Caucus, wrote in his statement.  

“I upheld my oath of office, told the truth, and did what I could to defend the rule of law.”

The statement comes after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 while Congress convened to count the nation’s Electoral College votes. The riots left five dead, including a police officer.

Van Langevelde said attempts to undermine election results led to the siege and endangered his safety and the security of his family members.

What has happened over the last few months is tragic; a dangerous and dishonest attempt to  undermine election results fanned the flames of discontent and put people at risk of harm,  including my family, and ultimately led to violence and the loss of life. It was clear in November  that the political games needed to stop – it is even more clear now,” Van Langevelde wrote in his statement.

The Detroit News reported on Monday that the Michigan Republican Party is considering several party activists to replace Van Langevelde, including Linda Lee Tarver, an ardent supporter of Trump who repeated numerous false allegations of election fraud during a Michigan Senate Oversight Committee hearing in December.  — Madeline Halpert

Sunday, Jan. 17

Capitol safe after tiny protest

Police officers and National Guard troops far outnumbered demonstrators Sunday at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, where officials had braced for a violent gathering of far-right activists and supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump. 

While some people carried long guns onto the Capitol lawn, there were no arrests or incidents as of mid-afternoon, said Lt. Michael Shaw, a state police spokesperson who estimated there were no more than 20 protestors.

“We have enough people to deal with five protestors or enough to deal with over a thousand,” Shaw said.

Around 1 p.m. a small group of armed demonstrators that included self-described Boogaloo Bois marched to the front of the capitol building, where one man read a manifesto outside a 6-foot-tall security fence that protected the building. They complained about both major political parties. 

Elsewhere, a handful of Trump supporters waved flags, and one even danced alone on the Capitol lawn. With Democratic President-elect Joe Biden set to take office Wednesday, the FBI has warned of armed protests at all state capitals.  Police plan to maintain an enhanced presence at the Michigan Capitol until “at least” February, Shaw said.

“We’re just here making sure that everybody is safe exercising their constitutional rights, you know, airing grievances toward the government,” he said. “But we’re also here to make sure that those who want to break the law are dealt with as well.” — Jonathan Oosting

Friday, Jan. 15

Gov. Whitmer activates National Guard at Michigan Capitol

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has activated the National Guard ahead of planned armed protests at the Capitol building in Lansing this weekend, her spokesperson said Friday.

The announcement follows a Dec. 29 internal bulletin from the FBI warning of violence in all 50 state capitals this week until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20.

Several other states, including California, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania, also have activated National Guard units around their state capitol buildings.

The Michigan State Police have increased their security presence at the Capitol and staff are installing a 6-foot fence around the building ahead of the potential protests.  

Michigan State Police Col. Joseph Gasper said during a Friday news conference that state and local law enforcement officials in Lansing are working together to avoid a “repeat” of the U.S. Capitol siege last week that left dozens injured and five dead, including a police officer. 

Tuesday, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor petitioned Whitmer to deploy the guard in preparation “for the worst.”  Read more >  Madeline Halpert

Wednesday, Jan. 13

Protest expected to draw hundreds

Multiple Michigan militia groups are planning an armed protest Sunday at the Lansing Capitol that could draw “several hundreds” of protesters, Michael Lackomar, team leader of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, told Bridge Michigan. 

Lackomar’s group and several other Michigan militia organizations including the Michigan Home Guard, Michigan Liberty Militia and Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines will likely be in attendance, he said.

He said the group’s main grievance is the state Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 restrictions, which have “destroyed businesses.” Lackomor said they are also dissatisfied with “the way the state government handled the election” although he said that Democrat Joe Biden “probably” won. 

The plans come amid warnings from an internal FBI report about armed protests in all 50 capitals nationwide and in Washington, D.C, this weekend until Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday. 

The planned protests follow a chaotic week in D.C., when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol while Congress convened to count the nation’s Electoral College voters. 

Before the siege, Trump told supporters that Congress should toss out the election results, and urged them to march to the Capitol and “show strength.” The riots left five dead, including a police officer. 

On Wednesday, the House voted to impeach Trump for a second time for his role in inciting the insurrection. The timing of a trial in the U.S. Senate remains uncertain. 

The Michigan State Police have already increased their security presence at the Lansing Capitol in light of the memo and Capitol staff have installed a six-foot perimeter fence around the building. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has petitioned Whitmer to request support from the National Guard. 

The Capitol will be closed on Sunday due to COVID-19 orders from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Lackomar said the group has no plans for violence unless they are “forced to defend” themselves. 

He said the protests will likely start about 9 a.m., with more people arriving around 2 p.m. Madeline Halpert


Wednesday, Jan. 13

Rick Snyder charged with misdemeanors in Flint water crisis

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday with two charges of willful neglect of duty stemming from an investigation into the 2014 Flint water crisis, which exposed residents in the Black-majority city to toxic lead.

Court records posted online Wednesday evening indicated Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed both charges against Snyder, each of which are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to $1,000. 

It’s the first time in Michigan history a governor has been charged with crimes related to his or her time in office, according to The Associated Press. 

Several appointees and aides of the former Republican governor were bracing for charges as well, but as of late Wednesday, records only showed charges for Snyder and former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft, who is also charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

Snyder attorney Brian Lennon on Tuesday argued any charges against his client would be “meritless” and politically motivated. 

Nessel, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy are expected to detail all new charges Thursday at an 11:30 a.m. press conference. — Jonathan Oosting


Upton says 'enough is enough,' plans to vote to impeach Trump

Republican Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph plans to vote to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday.  

Upton, who is Michigan’s most senior representative, will join House Democrats for the historic second impeachment, which centers on Trump’s comments to supporters last week that many believe incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol that killed five, including a police officer.

“It is time to say: enough is enough,” Upton said in a statement Tuesday. “The Congress must hold President Trump to account and send a clear message that our country cannot and will not tolerate any effort by any President to impede the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next.”

The Congress must hold President Trump to account and send a clear message that our country cannot and will not tolerate any effort by any President to impede the peaceful transfer of power from one President to the next. Thus, I will vote to impeach. pic.twitter.com/NqxyoB4ncv

— Fred Upton #WearYourMask (@RepFredUpton) January 13, 2021

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, who took office this month, also said he is strongly considering backing impeachment during the vote that is expected to begin after debate starts at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Meijer has criticized Republican colleagues on social media and in a Detroit News opinion piece for  spreading lies about voter fraud after the Nov. 3 election. 

“Blood has been spilled, and those who encouraged this insurrection are in too deep,” he wrote in The Detroit News piece Saturday. 

Meijer and Upton did not object to Electoral College results when Congress convened last Wednesday to receive and count the votes. Three Michigan Republicans, U.S. Reps Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township, Tim Walberg, R-Tipton and Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, signed onto objections. McClain said Tuesday she would vote against impeachment. — Madeline Halpert


Friday, Jan. 8

Charlotte man charged with bomb scare, threats to Rep. Johnson

A Charlotte man was charged with three felonies on allegations that he called in a false bomb threat at the Michigan Capitol on Thursday and threatened the life of state Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, and her relatives.

Michael Varrone, 48, was arraigned Friday in Lansing on two counts of false report or threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony, and one felony count of false report or threat of bomb or harmful device, which is punishable by four years in prison. Varrone’s bond was set at $50,000 cash.

According to Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, one of the errorism charges was related to a phone threat from Varrone to Johnson on Dec. 12. 

Johnson served on the House Oversight Committee, which launched an inquiry into the presidential election in November amid unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud from President Donald Trump. 

In December, Johnson shared voicemails on social media of death threats she said she received after trying to question Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, during a committee hearing. 

Johnson was stripped of her committee assignments for the rest of the year after she issued a “warning to you Trumpers” in a Facebook video responding to the threats. 

In a statement, Nessel said she hopes the charges and riots this week in Washington D.C. “can serve as reminders of the security measures we must work to maintain and improve to protect the sanctity of our democracy and the safety of our people.” — Madeline Halpert


Michigan Democrats call for Trump impeachment

The Michigan State Police arrested a Charlotte, Michigan man on Thursday on allegations of reporting a bomb at the Michigan Capitol Building. 

Police say Michael Varrone, 48, was apprehended outside his home after an operator at the Capitol complex was phoned early Thursday and informed everyone needed to evacuate because the building was going to explode. 

The Michigan State Capitol was closed to lawmakers and staff for two hours until authorities determined the threat was false. Varrone could face charges Friday, the Michigan Attorney General’s office said.

The threat followed a chaotic and violent day in Washington, D.C. during which a mob of Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol, breached the building and clashed with police. The assault left dozens injured and five dead, including one U.S. Capitol Police officer, who was injured in a clash with  rioters. 

Before the assault, President Donald Trump told supporters to march to the Capitol and “show strength.” 

The riots have led some former allies to sever ties with the president. Democrats have demanded Trump and other Republicans who supported efforts to overturn presidential election results be removed from office. 

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned Thursday, saying President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the mob was an “inflection point” for her. Devos, a Michigan resident, called Trump’s behavior “unconscionable” and said, “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us.” 
  • All seven Michigan’s congressional Democrats are backing efforts to remove Trump from office before his term expires Jan. 20. No Michigan Republicans have publicly endorsed efforts to impeach Trump or pressure his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office.
  • Trump “must be held accountable, and he must be prevented from holding public office and wielding that power ever again,” said Rep Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township. 
  • In a letter to GOP House Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth Thursday, House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski demanded 18 Michigan GOP representatives who signed onto lawsuits and a letter to Vice President Mike Pence challenging election results should “disavow” their actions or not be seated in the next Legislature. 
  • “I implore you to consider what is at stake if these lawmakers are allowed to advocate for the subversion of our democracy one day and then be allowed to make decisions on behalf of the people of Michigan the next,” Lasinski wrote. 
  • Trump conceded the presidential election Thursday night in a video posted on Twitter. “A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” he said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.” — Madeline Halpert

Thursday, Jan. 7

Six from Michigan arrested in Capitol riots

Six Michigan residents were arrested in connection with chaos and violence that gripped the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, according to the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. 

Police arrested dozens, including four from Michigan on allegations of violating a 6 p.m. curfew, one for unlawful entry and another on a weapons charge.

They were among thousands of Trump supporters who gathered outside the Capitol while Congress convened to count Electoral College votes and confirm Democrat Joe Biden’s win. 

The rally turned violent when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, broke windows and clashed with police who used tear gas to disperse crowds. Several pipe bombs were also planted near the building, according to reports. The siege left four dead and dozens injured, including law enforcement officials. 

The FBI is seeking to identify individuals instigating violence in Washington, D.C. We are accepting tips and digital media depicting rioting or violence in and around the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If you have information, visit https://t.co/buMd8vYXzH.

— FBI (@FBI) January 7, 2021

The FBI has requested tips and social media photos from the public to help identify others who took part in the riots. — Madeline Halpert


Wednesday, Jan. 6

Rioters storm U.S. Capitol

Supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with police and breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a lockdown and delaying a final count of Michigan's Electoral College votes for Democrat Joe Biden.

There were reports of an armed standoff outside the House, and at least one report of shots fired inside the Capitol. An apparent pipe bomb threat led law enforcement officers to evacuate the nearby Cannon Office Building, where many lawmakers have offices. 

"We have been instructed to lie down on the floor and put on our gas masks," U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint Township, wrote in a tweet at 2:52 p.m. "Chamber security and Capitol Police have their guns drawn as protesters bang on the front door of the chamber. This is not a protest. This is an attack on America."

I am in the House Chambers. We have been instructed to lie down on the floor and put on our gas masks. Chamber security and Capitol Police have their guns drawn as protesters bang on the front door of the chamber.

This is not a protest. This is an attack on America.

— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) January 6, 2021

The violence ensued shortly after Trump addressed a massive crowd of supporters and encouraged them to march to the Capitol and "show strength."

The Capitol was locked after protesters reportedly charged the building and clashed with police in an attempt to gain entrance during the Electoral College count. 

They eventually succeeded, prompting both the House and Senate to indefinitely suspend debate at around 2:30 p.m. Lawmakers were asked to shelter in place and stay away from windows and doors. Minutes later, there were unconfirmed reports of gunfire within the House chamber.      

Members were evacuated and told to retrieve gas masks from under their seats after tear gas was sprayed in the rotunda outside the chambers.

“Capitol breached,” U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, tweeted at 2:34 p.m. “Pray for safe conclusion to this awful day.”

“I’m sheltering in place in my office,” U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, a Rochester Hills Democrat whose office is in the adjacent Longworth House Office building, tweeted before the Capitol lockdown, at 1:45 p.m. “The building next door has been evacuated. I can’t believe I have to write this.” 

The drama unfolded after Vice President Mike Pence announced he would not defy the Constitution and overturn results, drawing a public rebuke from Trump.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” he wrote in a tweet at 2:24 p.m.  — Jonathan Oosting and Madeline Halpert


Detroit seeks disbarment of Trump attorney allies

The City of Detroit is seeking the disbarment of conservative attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood over their attempts to overturn presidential election results in Michigan in favor of President Donald Trump.

In a federal motion filed Tuesday, Detroit attorneys David Fink and Lawrence Garcia also asked U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker to impose monetary sanctions and force the attorneys to repay attorney fees with costs of defending the so-called Kraken suit alleging widespread voter fraud.

“While the First Amendment may protect the right of political fanatics to spew their lies and unhinged conspiracy theories, it does not grant anyone a license to abuse our courts for purposes which are antithetical to our democracy and to our judicial system,” the motion read. 

In November, Powell sought to decertify election results in Michigan with a suit that included data analyses that were riddled with errors, false claims about voter turnout in Michigan and a conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems’ tabulators were used to flip votes in Michigan and other battleground states. 

In rejecting the suit, Parker called it an “amalgamation of theories, conjecture, and speculation” not supported by facts. Detroit’s motion on Tuesday claimed the false fraud claims “are not just damaging to our democratic experiment, they are also deeply corrosive to the judicial process itself.”

On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos told Axios a defamation lawsuit against Powell is “imminent.” The company sent a cease and desist letter to Mellissa Carone, a contractor for Dominion at the TCF Center in Detroit where the city’s absentee ballots were counted. Carone made several false allegations about the company’s machines after the election alongside Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at a Legislative hearing last month. — Madeline Halpert


Tuesday, Jan. 5

Meijer opposes effort to block Electoral College vote

Michigan freshman U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer on Tuesday joined a coalition of Republicans opposing congressional effort to block Electoral College votes from states that President Donald Trump lost but continues to contest. 

"To unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process ... would amount to stealing power from the people and the states," Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, and 11 other GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter to House leaders.

Congress is set to convene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to review and accept Electoral College votes, a typically routine step to confirm election results already certified in each state. Democrat Joe Biden has secured 306 Electoral College votes, more than the 270 required to become president. 

Trump, however, has urged lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence not to accept electors from states including Michigan, where he lost to Biden by 154,188 votes but continues to allege widespread voter fraud without tangible evidence.

Michigan's Republican delegation is split on pending challenges, which experts say will surely fail because Democrats have a majority in the U.S. House. Both chambers would have to vote to block electors. 

Two Michigan Republicans — Jack Bergman of Watersmeet and Tim Walberg of Tipton — said Monday they plan to object to electors "from disputed states where there is evidence warranting an investigation." 

Another, freshman Rep. Lisa McClain of Bruce Township, said she has "grave concerns" and may vote to block electors.

Meijer joins U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan in officially opposing the attempt to undo the election. U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland said he will not object to Michigan electors but left the door open to supporting challenges to other states. 

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, has not publicly commented on the Electoral College drama ahead of Wednesday's joint session with the House and Senate. — Jonathan Oosting


Monday, Jan. 4

Candice Miller won't challenge Gretchen Whitmer

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller announced Monday she will not run for governor in 2022. 

“I appreciate the support of the people of Macomb County in my recent re-election and I am committed to fulfilling my duties here,” the Republican wrote in a Facebook post.

The announcement follows media reports that Michigan GOP officials are eyeing the former congresswoman to run against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her bid for re-election. 

Miller, 66, served eight years as Michigan Secretary of State and 14 years in the U.S House of Representatives. 

“Improving water quality in our magnificent Great Lakes, upgrading and maintaining our infrastructure and being a positive component of economic prosperity for Macomb County – these remain my focus,” she wrote in the Monday post. 

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told the Detroit News he also has no plans to run for governor in 2022. — Madeline Halpert

Tuesday, Dec. 22

Nessel may seek sanctions against Trump attorneys

Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday her office plans to pursue professional sanctions against President Donald Trump’s campaign attorneys and allies including Sidney Powell for “intentional misrepresentations” in lawsuits seeking to overturn Michigan election results. 

“Unfortunately, any of the worst things that anybody has ever said about attorneys, about the profession of lawyers, now has come to fruition just because of the things that have been said and done by the Trump campaign and his allies,” Nessel told reporters in a year-end call. 

“That has been really upsetting to me. I think we need to go back to a time where you can trust an attorney is making an accurate and truthful representation to the court, because if they don’t, then they won’t be able to practice law any more.”

The first-term Democrat noted that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani did not put his name on rejected and withdrawn Michigan lawsuits, which alleged unproven voter fraud and were filed by campaign attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne. That means Giuliani can’t face criminal charges for lying during a legislative hearing because he was not under oath, Nessel said.

But Nessel criticized the work of other attorneys that Giuliani has touted, including Matthew DePerno of Portage, who made questionable claims to right-wing media outlets about Dominion Voting Systems equipment used in Antrim County, where human error in the Republican clerk’s office led to an error in election night reporting results that was later corrected. 

The Michigan attorney general’s office will likely file attorney grievance complaints in states where the accused attorneys are licensed to practice law. But that can’t happen until the lawsuits are officially closed, Nessel said. 

“We’re not at that point yet, but in some cases absolutely we will be asking for sanctions, and we’ll be asking for court costs and attorney fees,” she said. “If you have your name to it, and you have made intentional misrepresentations of facts to the court, I absolutely believe that you ought to be held accountable.” — Jonathan Oosting


Thursday, Dec. 17

Audit barely changes Antrim County vote

An audit of Antrim County’s election results Thursday revealed an extra 11 votes for President Donald Trump and one fewer vote for Democrat Joe Biden out of 15,962 total votes. 

That’s a 0.07 percent shift from the county’s certified results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wrote in a tweet.

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, and lost Antrim County by more than 3,000, but the northern Michigan GOP stronghold became fodder for conspiracy theories after a clerk’s mistake in reporting unofficial results in the Nov. 3 election attributed Trump votes to Biden. The error was quickly corrected.

“The #AntrimAudit confirmed the truth & affirmed the facts: Dominion [Voting Systems’] voting machines accurately tabulated votes cast for President,” Benson wrote in a Thursday tweet.

The #AntrimAudit confirmed the truth & affirmed the facts: Dominion’s voting machines accurately tabulated votes cast for President.

Now it’s time for the disinformation campaigns to end, and for all leaders to unequivocally affirm the Nov election was secure, accurate & fair. https://t.co/ydPsAcoDgA

— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) December 17, 2020

“Now it’s time for the disinformation campaigns to end, and for all leaders to unequivocally affirm the Nov election was secure, accurate & fair.”

The audit rebutted a Monday report from Trump supporter Russel Ramsland, who claimed there was a 68 percent “error rate” in Antrim County’s voting machines.  

Like many counties, Antrim used Dominion Voting Systems to tabulate results. Its CEO, John Poulos, this week testified before a state Senate committee investigating unproven allegations of fraud from Trump and his supporters.

Poulos refuted several false allegations about the machines. He said the Antrim County error was a result of GOP clerk Sheryl Guy failing to update machine tabulator memory cards in October. But the mistake did not affect the way votes were counted.

During the “zero-margin” audit of Antrim County’s election results, bipartisan election officials, including Lansing Clerk Chris Swope, a Democrat, and Rochester Hills Clerk Tina Barton, a Republican, hand-counted each of the county’s ballots to confirm numbers matched machine results.

Benson’s office will also perform a statewide “risk-limiting” audit. — Madeline Halpert


Monday, Dec. 14, 2020

Paul Mitchell quits GOP over Trump fraud claims

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell of Dryden says he's leaving the Republican party over “disgust and disappointment” with President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election.

In a Monday letter to Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and GOP House of Representatives leader Kevin McCarthy, Mitchell lambasted Republican colleagues for refusing to speak out against conspiracy theories and baseless claims of election fraud.

It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote,” wrote Mitchell, who added he voted for Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

The retiring representative requested his political party affiliation be changed to independent for the remainder of his term in office, which finishes Jan. 3.  He is being succeeded by Lisa McClain, a vocal Trump supporter, to represent the 10th district that covers Michigan's Thumb.

Mitchell’s decision came after Electoral Colleges convened nationwide Monday to formally elect Democrat Joe Biden, who won more than the 270 electoral votes required to secure the presidency. 

Since the election, Mitchell has spoken out against several unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud promoted by Trump and his supporters.  He is the second Michigan Republican, along with retiring Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township, to switch party affiliation to independent during Trump’s term.

In the letter, Mitchell wrote he worried the false fraud allegations backed by some Republicans would lead to “long-term harm to our democracy.”

I believe that raw political considerations, not constitutional or voting integrity concerns, motivate many in party leadership to support the ‘stop the steal’ efforts, which is extremely disappointing to me,” he wrote. — Madeline Halpert

Threats close Michigan legislative buildings

Safety concerns have prompted the closure of Michigan House and Senate office buildings Monday as the Electoral College convenes in the Capitol. 

The decision was based on “credible threats of violence," said Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Michigan’s 16 delegates are set to meet at 2 p.m. in the Senate chamber to cast their votes for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who won the state by 154,000 votes.

The meeting, which is largely ceremonial and typically open to the public, will be closed this year, but live-streamed. Some Republicans have criticized the decision to close the meeting.

Protesters are expected outside the building, and the Michigan State Police has offered to escort electors from the parking garage to the Capitol, said Chris Cracchiolo, an elector and Grand Traverse County Democratic Party chair.  

The closure followed weekend of pro-Trump rallies in Washington, D.C., some of which ended in vandalization, violence and arrests, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid to overturn election results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin. — Madeline Halpert


Friday, Dec. 11

Michigan Supreme Court rejects Trump appeal

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal from President Donald Trump’s campaign, which unsuccessfully sued Michigan in an attempt to invalidate an election that Democrat Joe Biden won by 154,188 votes. 

In a brief order, justices on Michigan’s highest court denied the appeal but offered no further explanation of their unanimous decision, which ends the Trump campaign's state-based legal challenge.

The suit initially sought to stop absentee ballot counting in Detroit, but Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens rejected that request on Nov. 5, in part because the count was done. 

Stephens dismissed the campaign's primary evidence of alleged election fraud as "hearsay" and said there is "no basis" to believe the lawsuit could succeed on its merits.

The Trump campaign took weeks to appeal the ruling after initially submitting a "defective" request that almost derailed the case. A Michigan Court of Appeals denied the case last week and the Supreme Court did the same Friday. 

The Trump campaign previously withdrew its federal lawsuit over the Michigan election, and allies have also lost multiple cases here. 

But the president is backing one last "Hail Mary" case in the U.S. Supreme Court, where  Texas is asking justices to undo certified results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia, all of which were won by Democrat Joe Biden. — Jonathan Oosting


Thursday, Dec. 10

Whitmer: Reconsider punishment of Rep. Johnson

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday called on incoming Republican House leaders to reconsider the decision to remove State Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, from her committee assignments.

Johnson was stripped from committee assignments on Wednesday by outgoing House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, for posting a video on social media calling on “Trumpers” to “pay” for a series of death threats against her.

Whitmer called the punishment “too hard,” noting that Johnson has been barraged with threats following a hearing last week about unproven claims of voter fraud.

“None of it is acceptable,” Whitmer said. “And I believe it is crucial that we show one another some grace right now and some empathy and some compassion.”

Police are investigating threats against Johnson, including racial slurs and threats that she should be “swinging from a f---ing rope.” On Tuesday, in a video that has been now removed, Johnson called on her “soldier” supporters to “hit their asses in the pocketbook.”

“You don’t have to yell. You don’t have to curse anybody out. You don’t have to call people names,” Johnson said in the roughly 3-minute clip. “Hit their asses in the pocketbook.”

Johnson later clarified her “soldier” remarks by calling on “soldiers of Christ, soldiers against racism, soldiers against misogyny, soldiers against domestic violence and domestic terrorism” to rise up.  Mike Wilkinson


Dominion representatives to appear in front of Michigan Legislature

Dominion Voting Systems representatives will testify next week before a Michigan House committee investigating election-related improprieties, House Speaker Lee Chatfield announced Thursday.

The Toronto-based manufacturer provides voting machines used in much of the United States, including in Michigan. Republican President Donald Trump and others have accused it of being part of an unproven global conspiracy to change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

Some of the claims stem from an error in Antrim County, whose Republican clerk has testified she inputted vote totals incorrectly, leading the GOP-leaning county to falsely report that Democrat Joe Biden won. The mistake was quickly fixed.

In a Dec. 2 state House hearing, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, brought forth many witnesses who alleged electoral fraud involving Dominion. Giuliani and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell have both made since debunked claims of Dominion being compromised by foriegn governments

“You deserve answers. It’s only right,” Chatfield, R-Levering, wrote on Twitter, adding that “it’s about time” Dominion agreed to testify.

We need to get to the bottom of these accusations and hear from them.”

Michigan’s election results, showing a win by Biden 154,000 votes, were certified on Nov. 23. On Dec. 9, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a comprehensive audit into the 2020 election in the state. Mansur Shaheen


Wednesday, Dec. 9

Trump seeks to join Supreme Court suit

Republican President Donald Trump is seeking to join a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit asking justices to prohibit Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting Electoral College votes for Democrat Joe Biden, who won the popular vote in each state. 

Trump on Wednesday filed a motion to intervene in the case filed Tuesday by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

In the motion, Trump attorney John Eastman alleged Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “illegally flooded the state with absentee ballot applications mailed to every registered voter despite the fact that state law strictly limits the ballot application process.”

Michigan courts have said Benson acted lawfully, most recently in September, when a divided state Court of Appeals panel ruled she had a right to send out the absentee ballot applications. Regardless, Michigan voters who applied and legally cast those ballots did nothing fraudulent. 

Trump and his allies are running out of legal avenues to challenge election results in battleground states the president lost. The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an alleged voter fraud suit from GOP activists. — Jonathan Oosting


Divided court rejects lawsuit seeking to probe election

In a 4-3 decision, the Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from two state Republicans who asked the court to take custody of election materials and to conduct an investigation into election results. 

The court was “not persuaded that it can or should grant the requested relief.” 

Republican nominated Justice Elizabeth Clement joined three Democratic-nominated justices in denying the request. 

In a lawsuit filed on Nov. 26, Angelic Johnson and Linda Lee Tarver – both supporters of President Donald Trump – sought the seizure of election equipment such as ballot boxes and poll books and the appointment of a legislative committee to investigate claims of fraud from Detroit’s TCF Center, where the city’s absentee ballots were counted. 

Trump and his supporters claim Democrat Joe Biden only won Michigan by 154,000 votes because of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in Wayne County.

In a dissenting opinion, Republican-nominated Justice Brian Zahra argued Johnson and Tarver presented “a significant constitutional question pertaining to the process and scope of the constitutional right to an election audit.” 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office announced Wednesday it will be conduct a statewide risk-limiting audit of election results, as previously planned, including a zero-margin audit and a hand count of every ballot in Antrim County, where a clerical error fueled false conspiracy theories of widespread issues with Dominion Voting Systems.

“By conducting the most comprehensive set of audits in our state’s history, the Bureau of Elections and Michigan’s more than 1,600 local election clerks are demonstrating the integrity of our election,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement.  — Madeline Halpert and Mansur Shaheen


Tuesday, Dec. 8

Elections official refutes fraud claims

Michigan’s former longtime elections director Chris Thomas refuted numerous false claims of election fraud in Detroit from GOP poll challengers in 3½  hours of testimony Tuesday at a Senate Oversight Committee hearing. 

“I’m not telling you it was perfect,” Thomas, who helped oversee Detroit’s count, told the panel. “But it was a damn good election under the circumstances.”

Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan’s presidential contest by more than 154,000 votes, but claims of election fraud from President Donald Trump and Republican poll challengers in Michigan – many of which focus on Detroit’s absentee counting process – have persisted in the aftermath of the election. Last week, the Oversight Committee heard more than six hours of testimony from GOP challengers who were present at Detroit’s TCF Center, where poll workers counted the city’s absentee ballots. 

Last Wednesday, Rudolph Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s campaign attorney, also gave testimony and at times, commandeered an unusual meeting of a legislative committee in the state House, asking questions of other witnesses and calling Michigan’s elections process “a con job.” 

Unlike Giuliani and GOP poll challengers during last week’s House hearing, Thomas and other witnesses Tuesday in the Senate were administered an oath before testifying. 

In his testimony, Thomas, who appeared virtually, addressed several unproven allegations from challengers, including conspiracies surrounding the late-night arrival of absentee ballots, election machines’ connection to the Internet and double-counting of absentee ballots at the TCF Center. 

Republican challengers have repeatedly claimed tens of thousands of ballots were delivered in the early morning hours on Nov. 4 to the TCF Center. During a testimony before the legislative committees last week, Andrew Sitto, a GOP poll challenger, alleged Daniel Baxter, Detroit’s former election supervisor who helped oversee the count, was the one delivering the ballots late at night. 

Baxter “wasn’t there,” Thomas said. “He was across the street in a hotel sleeping – no dereliction of duty; it was his time to take a break,” he added. 

Thomas testified that it’s not unusual for ballots that arrive on Election Day to be delivered to the counting board after the polls close, since it takes several hours to process them at Detroit’s Department of Elections. There were about 16,000 ballots received on Election Day through the mail, in drop boxes and at the clerk’s office that were delivered at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday to the TCF Center, he noted.  

Thomas also said that almost no computers at the TCF Center were connected to the Internet. Computers that were near tabulators could not connect to the Internet remotely, Thomas said, addressing a conspiracy theory proposed during last week’s hearing by Patrick Colbeck, a Republican former state lawmaker from Canton Township. 

These concerns reflected a misunderstanding of how elections are administered under Michigan election law, Thomas said. 

He also addressed claims from Mellisa Carone, a contractor at the TCF Center for Dominion Voting Systems, who appeared alongside Giuliani at the Wednesday hearing. She claimed thousands of ballots were run through tabulators and counted multiple times. 

If that were the case, Detroit precincts would be off by hundreds of votes in absent voter counting boards, Thomas said. That did not happen. It is true that 70 percent of Detroit’s absent voter counting boards were out of balance without explanations for the Nov. 3 election, which means the number of voters recorded in poll books did not precisely match the number of ballots cast. But many of the imbalances were undervotes, meaning there were actually fewer ballots cast than voters recorded, and most were off by fewer than four votes, he said.  

Thomas’s explanations were at times met with hostility from Republican Committee members who raised security concerns about the chain of custody of ballots. 

Lawmakers also brought up questions about GOP poll challengers who claimed they were bullied at the TCF Center, to which Thomas replied he did not have an answer. 

“Do you have any knowledge of anything?” Sen. Mike MacDonald, R-Macomb asked Thomas. MacDonald was promptly scolded by Oversight Chairman and fellow Republican McBroom. 

The committee also heard virtual testimony during the six-hour meeting from several Democratic and nonpartisan challengers and election workers who were present at the TCF Center who described Detroit’s elections process as orderly and lawful. 

They raised concerns about hostility from Republican poll challengers, contrasting GOP poll challengers’ narratives from previous hearings that Republicans were the ones subject to intimidation. 

GOP poll challengers at the TCF Center were “an angry white mob of intimidation,” one Detroit elections worker testified.  

Numerous nonpartisan poll challengers present at the TCF Center who submitted affidavits to the ACLU commented on “the disturbing racial dynamic of almost all white challengers acting so disrespectfully towards and endangering the health of majority Black election-day workers,” said Phil Mayor, a senior staff attorney with the Michigan ACLU. 

Discrepancies in behavior from Democratic and Republican poll challengers could be indicative of a lack of uniform training for poll challengers, said Erica Peresmen, a voter protection director with the Michigan Democratic Party. She said Democratic poll challengers attended more training than Republicans, some of whom noted in affidavits they received only 15 minutes of training. Adequate training for Democratic challengers may have led to less confusion for them and less conflict with election workers. 

Ultimately, “everything was done by the book” in Detroit during the Nov. 3 election, testified Edith Lee-Payne, an elections supervisor at the TCF Center. 

Democratic members of the Oversight Committee thanked Thomas for his appearance at the hearing and for his willingness to provide clarifying information on Michigan’s election procedures. 

"If there are people who can be convinced of the truth, your testimony together with what we heard last week ought to do it," said Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor. — Madeline Halpert


Texas AG sues Michigan, other battleground states over election results

The Texas Attorney General is looking to sue Michigan and three other battleground states in what critics describe as another long-shot bid to overturn presidential election results. 

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, filed a motion Tuesday seeking approval to file a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, claiming the states’ COVID-19 pandemic era changes to election procedures violated federal law. 

The suit seeks to block the states from voting in the Electoral College. Michigan’s electors are set to convene Dec. 14 in Lansing to cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes and also beat Trump in the other three states. 

In the complaint, Paxton claimed that the states changed election laws regarding absentee ballots by “executive fiat or friendly lawsuits, thereby weakening ballot integrity.” 

Paxton also falsely alleged government officials in Michigan and the other states “flooded the defendant states with millions of ballots to be sent through the mails, or placed in drop boxes, with little or no chain of custody."

Michigan adopted changes to its election procedures in 2018 with the passing of Proposal 3, which allowed for no-excuse absentee voting and other measures such as same-day voter registration. In advance of the Nov. 3 election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mailed out absentee ballot applications, but not actual ballots, to the state’s registered voters. 

In a statement Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called the motion a “publicity stunt, not a serious legal pleading.” 

The complaint follows a series of election lawsuits in Michigan filed by the Trump campaign and his supporters, all of which have been either dismissed or withdrawn. 

“The Michigan issues raised in this complaint have already been thoroughly litigated and roundly rejected in both state and federal courts – by judges appointed from both political parties,” Nessel noted. 

"Mr. Paxton’s actions are beneath the dignity of the office of attorney general and the people of the great state of Texas," she said. — Madeline Halpert


Monday, Nov. 7

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer named Biden inauguration co-chair

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been named as one of five Inauguration co-chairs for President-elect Joe Biden.

Whitmer was selected for the role alongside four other prominent Democratic allies to the president-elect. She also served as one of the Biden campaign’s National Co-Chair.

“I am humbled to become a part of the inauguration for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris as a Co-Chair,” Whitmer said in a statement, “This inauguration will exemplify the strength and resilience our country has demonstrated throughout this entire year.”

The rest of the inaugural committee includes Chair U.S. House Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat; Mayor Eric Garcetti, D-Los Angeles; Rep. Cedric Richmond,  D-Louisiana and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat from Delaware.  — Mansur Shaheen


Michigan Legislature halts voting after Giuliani test

Michigan House speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, has canceled session on Tuesday after legislators may have been exposed to COVID-19 last week during a legislative hearing featuring Rudy Giulliani.

Giulliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, tested positive for COVID, Trump announced on Twitter Sunday.

.@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus. Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2020

The former New York City mayor was a part of a hearing in Lansing Thursday where he testified and questioned witnesses without wearing a mask. He tested negative multiple times in the days leading up to the hearing.

Chatfield said in a statement that no legislators require contact tracing, per CDC guidelines. — Mansur Shaheen


Thursday, Dec. 3

State election officials rejected 15,000 absentee ballots

Municipal election officials rejected roughly 15,000 absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 election, according to new data from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office.

The first-term Democrat said the figures demonstrate the “integrity” of the election, which Republican President Donald Trump and his allies continue to dispute.

While officials feared mail delays could prevent absentee ballots from reaching clerks by 8 p.m. on the Monday before the election, as required, that rarely happened.  Clerks across the state ended up rejecting 3,328 ballots that arrived late, which is about 0.1 percent of the 3.3 million absentee votes.

About 1,400 ballots were rejected because the signature submitted by the voter did not match the signature the clerk’s office had on file, and another 1,852 were rejected because they had no signature at all.

Moves and deaths were the most common reasons for ballot rejections. Statewide, clerks rejected 4,090 ballots from voters who moved to another jurisdiction before Election Day, and they rejected 3,469 from voters who submitted their ballot early but died before Election Day.

All told, clerks rejected 15,302 absentee ballots, about 0.46 percent of  total absentee ballots cast. That was a statistical improvement from the August primary, when clerks rejected roughly 0.66 percent of all absentee ballots, 10,600 out of roughly 1.6 million that were cast.

Detroit, the state's largest city, rejected the most ballots by far: 1,432 ballots, including 150 from voters who died, 336 from voters who moved, 54 without matching signatures and 625 without any signature at all. 

“I am extremely proud of the 1,600 clerks across the state who embraced the record setting turnout including more than double the number of absentee ballots ever cast in a Michigan election and vigilantly ensured that all valid ballots were counted,” Benson said in a statement.  

“It is also gratifying that our voter education efforts, alongside those of countless other nonpartisan organizations, in addition to the installation of secure ballot drop boxes across the state, combined to dramatically reduce the rate of voter disenfranchisement due to late submission and signature errors.” — Jonathan Oosting


Michigan Legislature halts voting after Guiliani test

Michigan House speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, has canceled session on Tuesday after legislators may have been exposed to COVID-19 last week during a legislative hearing featuring Rudy Giulliani.

Giulliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, tested positive for COVID, Trump announced on Twitter Sunday.

The former New York City mayor was a part of a hearing in Lansing Thursday where he testified and questioned witnesses without wearing a mask. He tested negative multiple times in the days leading up to the hearing.

Chatfield said in a statement that no legislators require contact tracing, per CDC guidelines. — Mansur Shaheen

Tuesday, Dec. 1

Guiliani to testify in Lansing about election

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney will testify Wednesday in Michigan after all, as his campaign continues to contest election results certified last week.

Rudy Giuliani, who has perpetuated unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in Michigan and other states Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden, will appear before the House Oversight Committee, according to Chair Matt Hall, R-Marshall. 

Hall last week declined Giuliani’s initial request to testify in person, citing “logistical” challenges, and had instead asked the president’s attorneys to submit written testimony. 

But in a Tuesday statement announcing the new hearing with Giuliani, Hall said he was glad they were able “to find time to make this work.”

“This is an opportunity for us to get definitive answers – in-person – about Mr. Giuliani’s claims and evidence, while we work to provide clarity and transparency to people who have taken issue with our state’s election system,” Hall said. 

A time for the hearing has not yet been announced. — Jonathan Oosting


Trump campaign fixes appeal once deemed ‘defective’ 

President Donald Trump’s campaign is not giving up its legal fight over the Michigan election that Democrat Joe Biden won by 154,188 votes. 

Attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne on Monday submitted paperwork to fix what the state Court of Appeals had called a “defective” filing, just under a deadline to formally challenge a Michigan Court of Claims ruling. 

The Trump campaign initially sued Michigan election officials on Nov. 4 seeking to halt absentee vote counting in Detroit, arguing Republican challengers were denied “meaningful” access to observe the tally.

Local election officials had temporarily prohibited new challengers from entering an already crowded counting board at the TCF Center due to COVID-19 restrictions, but witnesses say numerous GOP challengers were already inside. 

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed the campaign’s request as “moot” on Nov. 5 because counting had already concluded. She called an affidavit from the campaign’s primary witness “hearsay” and said there was “no basis” to believe the lawsuit would succeed on its merits. 

But Hearne’s new filing to the Michigan Court of Appeals argues the complaint is not “moot” because “this election is still not over, and the Electoral College does not meet until Dec. 14.” 

The statewide election results were certified last week, but the Trump campaign is again asking the appeals court for an order requiring the state to grant “meaningful access to observe and review the tabulation and processing of absentee ballots,” an effort that concluded statewide three weeks ago. Jonathan Oosting


Tuesday, Nov. 24

Shirkey: Trump didn't ask for interference

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says President Donald Trump wanted to discuss Michigan election results in a Friday meeting with state lawmakers but did not pressure them to interfere in the election process. 

“We were expecting something potentially like that, and I was very delighted, and so were my colleagues when we left, that all he did was inquire about our processes,” Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said Tuesday on WJR-AM 760. “And we just explained what they were.”

The Oval Office meeting lasted about 90 minutes, according to Shirkey, who was one of seven Michigan lawmakers to join the president, who has refused to recognize the Michigan win by Democrat Joe Biden that was certified Monday by the Board of State Canvassers. 

Trump has openly encouraged Legislatures to appoint their own electors in states he is contesting. It’s not immediately clear why he would need to summon seven GOP legislators to Washington D.C. just to learn about Michigan law, which clearly mandates that all 16 electors go to the winner of the statewide popular vote. 

But that’s what happened, according to Shirkey: “He inquired about Michigan election law, and we explained to him how they work, and he was convinced that there’s nothing we can do. The law is the law, and we made it very clear we were going to follow it.”

Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows joined them in the meeting, Shirkey said, and campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani also dialed in by phone and basically gave a “repeat” performance of the prior night’s press conference, in which the former New York mayor made numerous unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in Michigan and other battleground states.

“He didn’t ask anything there other than understanding, and then he was President Trump,” Shirkey added, noting their host briefly left the meeting to join a Rose Garden celebration that had “distracted” him. 

“He’s gregarious. He’s charming. He’s intense and he has an amazing, amazing level of energy.” — Jonathan Oosting


Nessel investigating threats to canvassers

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed on Tuesday that her office is actively investigating threats made against members of the Wayne County board of canvassers.

The threats after Republican canvassers on the board initially voting not to certify the results of the county’s elections on Nov. 17. They eventually certified results on the contingent that an audit would be done into the county’s electoral process. Republican canvassers allegedly received threats from both Republican and Democratic supporters in the days following. 

“We will investigate any credible complaints of threats to government officials, elected or appointed, and will prosecute criminal conduct to the fullest extent of the law,” Nessel said in a statement.

During the public commenting section of the state board’s meeting, Republican canvasser Monica Palmer spoke about some of the harassment she had received in the days following the Wayne County meeting. The harassment included graphic imagery and threats made against her daughter, she said.

Nessel’s office says they began their investigation “shortly after last week’s Board of Canvassers meeting.” —  Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Nov. 23

John James calls for audit; says Trump is ‘crying kraken’

Republican Senate challenger John James called for a “constitutional, transparent, independent” audit of the 2020 election in a string of videos he posted to his Twitter account Sunday, asking the state board of canvassers to delay its certification of Michigan’s election results.

The Farmington Hills businessman was defeated by incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters by more than  90,000 votes in official results. He has yet to concede, making unproven allegations of electoral fraud, though in the videos he admits that the outcome of his race is not likely to change after an audit or recount.

On Nov. 20, he filed a request for the Michigan state board of canvassers to delay the certification of the state’s results when it meets Monday. 

Many of James’ claims followed those of President Donald Trump, who lost the state of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes to President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat. In the videos, James acknowledged some Republican claims are not credible. 

“You can only try to cry kraken so many times before the villagers eventually stop believing,” James said, in reference to the lawsuits and claims the Trump campaign has made regarding the state of Michigan. “Judges are dismissing just about every legal dispute out of hand because, quite frankly, most of the legal challenges we’ve seen up to this point haven’t helped.”

Other private groups have filed lawsuits in the state as well, including a dropped case where a plaintiff requested all votes in Wayne, Washtenaw and Ingham counties be excluded from state certification. 

“I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to any party or president,” James continued, “I have a duty to use this platform to restore public trust and confidence in our elections.”

There are no verifiable claims of widespread voter or electoral fraud in the state of Michigan in the 2020 election. 

“When half the voters in the state believe we just had the most secure elections in U.S. history, and the other half believe they were cheated, we have a problem,” James said. — Mansur Shaheen


​Saturday, Nov. 21

GOP seeks certification delay, state recommends approval

The Michigan and national Republican parties want Michigan to delay certification of the state’s Nov. 3 election by 14 days to conduct an audit into unproven claims of “anomalies and irregularities” in Wayne County.

The State Board of Canvassers is expected to meet Monday to consider Democrat Joe Biden’s unofficial 154,000-vote victory over President Donald Trump, which would clear the way for the state to award its 16 electoral votes to Biden. 

But in a joint letter to the canvassers released Saturday, Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote that to “simply gloss over those irregularities now without a thorough audit would only foster feelings of distrust among Michigan’s electorate.”

Election lawyers say state doesn't allow audits before certification, however, and a 14-day delay would bring Michigan perilously close to the Dec. 8 “safe harbor” deadline for states to certify elections before courts or the state Legislature could intervene.

The letter comes one day after Republican John James, who lost by 92,000 votes to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, requested a certification delay, and Michigan Republican lawmakers visited the White House as part of Trump’s effort to have legislatures in battleground states he lost award electors to him.

Wayne County provided Biden with his margin for victory in Michigan. 

Despite numerous affidavits from Republican poll challengers and failed lawsuits, election officials say no credible evidence of fraud has emerged. In fact, clerks statewide — including Republicans — testified during state hearings this week that the election was one of the most secure in history. 

Bureau of Elections: Certify Michigan's results

The Michigan Bureau of Elections issued a report Friday recommending state canvassers approve the Nov. 3 general election results when it meets on Monday.

The report, which comes as the bipartisan canvassing board is under pressure to refuse to certify the results, points out that issues that had hindered Detroit in previous elections improved significantly and software problems that reported false counts in Antrim County were quickly remedied and didn’t occur in the state’s other 82 counties.

Two Republican on Wayne County’s canvassing board are trying, without success, to rescind their certification of the county’s results, arguing that too many precincts are unbalanced, meaning that totals of voters checking in poll books don’t equal the number of ballots.

But the state report found that almost 71.9 percent of Detroit’s precincts (458 of 637) were balanced in November, up from 53.6 percent in the August primary (539 of 1,006) and 41.8 percent in the 2016 election (270 of 662).

Balancing was an issue countywide, as well as in larger counties, and usually was the result of people leaving lines, paper jams in voting machines or other human error. The vast majority resulted in differences of fewer than five votes per precinct.

In Wayne County, the number of precincts whose votes were off by five or more fell to 5.7 percent (36 precincts) in November from 8.1 percent (81 precincts) in August.

The report also notes that turnout in Detroit “increased less than turnout statewide, which tends to undermine suggestions that an unusually large number of ballots were counted.” 

Also, the report concluded that issues with Dominion voting systems in Antrim County did not recur statewide. The county’s Republican clerk this week told state lawmakers that she made a mistake with a software update that caused vote totals for President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden to flip. The problem was quickly corrected.

The report came hours after a contingent of Michigan Republicans met with Trump in the White House, as the Republican president is lobbying battleground states to disregard popular votes and award electors to him.

The Republican lawmakers issued a statement afterward saying they would “follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.”

Many media outlets reported the statement as an affirmation that Republicans would honor the state vote, allowing Biden to become president.

Early Saturday, though, Trump retweeted the statement from Republicans, adding “this is true but much different than reported by the media. We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!”

Friday, Nov. 20

Attorney: Wayne County canvassers can't rescind certification

In a Friday memo, Wayne County’s top attorney wrote that Republican members of the Board of Canvassers can’t rescind their certification of the county’s election results.

Rescinding votes must be made during motions in meetings, Janet Anderson-Davis, the county’s corporation counsel, wrote in a memo. While canvassers must perform the canvass under Michigan election law, certification is not mandatory, Anderson-Davis wrote. But if there is a motion to certify, it cannot be reconsidered. 

The decision follows a Board of Canvassers meeting Tuesday in which Republican members Monica Palmer and William Hartmann originally voted not to certify election results. They claimed too many precincts were “out of balance” in the county, meaning that numbers of voters who signed into poll books did not match the number of ballots. The discrepancy was fewer than four votes in most precincts and is typically caused by human error, jammed machines or people leaving lines. 

Later in the meeting, after the promise of an audit, Palmer and Hartmann reversed the decision and voted unanimously to certify the result.. But the next day, after a call from President Donald Trump, they attempted to rescind their certification through signed affidavits. 

Trump cited the affidavits in his erroneous claims that the election wasn’t certified.

During a Friday media event in Farmington Hills on Friday, Palmer called for a comprehensive audit from the state before certification of election results.

Wayne County commissioners, meanwhile, are moving to censure Palmer and Hartmann and call for their resignations. — Madeline Halpert


Republicans leaders in the Michigan Legislature remain critical of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but made clear this week they won’t attempt to impeach her, dismissing a push from GOP colleagues as a “distraction.”

State Reps. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain, Matt Maddock of Milford and Daire Rendon of Lake City on Wednesday introduced an impeachment resolution alleging Whitmer, “violated the constitutional rights of the people of Michigan” and “issued orders that are not in the best interests of the people of this state.”

Senate Majority Leader MIke Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday that he opposed the calls for impeachment, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said the same in a Wednesday interview.

“It's no secret I've disagreed with the governor on how she's handled many aspects of COVID. I debated her, and I've even taken her to court and won. But the fact is, this isn't how Republicans deal with disagreements,” Chatfield told Bridge. “Republicans aren't the party that impeaches an individual simply because we disagree with them or don't like their policies.”

Whitmer’s office has called the impeachment resolution “partisan politics” and said the governor “doesn’t have time for people who don't wear masks, don't believe in science, and don't have a plan to fight this virus.” 

Chatfield, an ally of President Donald Trump, compared GOP calls to impeach Whitmer to the 2019 impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House, where Democrats and independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan impeached Trump but the GOP majority in the Senate acquitted him.

In that instance, Trump was accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, who beat Trump in this month’s Michigan election, and obstructing the congressional probe. 

“I thought it was shameful what the Democrats did to President Trump in 2019,” Chatfield said, “and because of that these impeachment proceedings, based on the information we have and the conduct we've seen, are not going to move forward in the House.”


Catch up on our recent election coverage

Trump withdraws Michigan suit, falsely claims Wayne County votes halted
Rudy Guiliani, President Trump’s campaign lawyer, said the campaign withdrew its federal suit challenging Michigan’s presidential vote because it has already succeeded in blocking certification of votes in Wayne County. It has not.

GOP canvassers want do-over on Wayne County results. Too late, experts say
Two Republican canvassers change their minds again, say they want to ‘rescind’ votes to certify Wayne County’s election. Experts say that can’t happen, but it comes days before a bipartisan state board meets to certify Michigan results.

Wayne County canvasser: I sought to 'protect' Detroit vote, ‘not be racist’
As Wayne County commissioners are set to demand the resignations of two GOP canvassers who initially refused to certify the county’s election, one of them, Monica Palmer, says the experience was 'heartbreaking.' A fellow member says she's not 'ready for prime time.'

Michigan GOP canvassers under pressure to ignore votes, help Trump
Now that Wayne County has certified its election, activists want the state Board of Canvassers to refuse to certify the state’s election and allow lawmakers to award Michigan’s electors to Trump. It’s a long shot and may be illegal.

Wayne County changes course, certifies election as GOP members relent
After deadlocking earlier Tuesday, Michigan’s largest and most Democratic county switches course agrees to certify and audit its election. GOP canvassers had initially refused, citing unbalanced precincts, but agreed to a compromise amid withering criticism of disenfranchisement.

Joe Biden won, Michigan elector coup ‘not going to happen,’ GOP leader says
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says Democrat Joe Biden is the president-elect and the Legislature’s investigation of the election won’t change the results in Michigan.

As Trump lawsuit sputters, Michigan moves closer to certifying election
President Donald Trump has sued to stop certification of Michigan’s elections. But the case can’t proceed because his attorneys still haven’t taken the simple step of notifying state officials of the lawsuit.

Michigan counties wrapping up canvasses this week. That’s bad news for Trump.
Joe Biden likely will make a huge step toward making his Michigan win official this week, as the state’s 83 county boards of canvassers certify election results. Despite unproven claims of fraud, even Republicans say surprises are unlikely.


Tuesday, Nov. 17

The Michigan Bureau of Elections has turned over 1,100 pages of records about the Nov. 3 election in response to a subpoena from Michigan Senate and House Oversight committees, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement

Amid unproven accusations of fraud from President Donald Trump, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature issued a rare subpoena on Nov. 7 for “all documents and communications” relating to the state’s efforts to inform residents of their right to vote by mail and how to register to vote.

In a Monday statement, Nessel said the bureau had only six business days to provide the records, a timeframe she called “unduly burdensome.”

In a letter to Michigan Director of Elections Jonathan Brater, the committees said their inquiry followed “numerous allegations regarding the integrity of the Nov. 3 election.” Among other things, Republicans allege they were not provided unfettered access to observe absentee ballots being counted in Wayne County and question software tied to a glitch in tabulating results in Antrim County.

The records “illustrate our commitment to transparency and cooperation, despite the questionable legality of the legislative committees’ subpoena and the naked partisan agenda behind their action,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. — Madeline Halpert


Saturday, Nov. 14

NAACP files to fight Trump suit, calls it ‘all-out attack' on Black voters

The Michigan State Conference of the NAACP has petitioned a federal court to allow it to intervene in a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign that seeks to delay the certification of Wayne County’s election results.

In a brief filed late Friday in Michigan’s Western District, the NAACP group seeks to become a co-defendant in the suit that targets Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Detroit election officials.

The brief accuses Trump of launching an “all-out attack on votes cast by Black voters” in an effort to make up a “state-wide 150,000 vote gap” on claims that Republican poll challengers weren’t allowed unfettered access to view counting of absentee ballots in Detroit.

Affidavits filed by state NAACP President Yvonne White and Detroit Branch President Wendell Anthony say dismissing the votes would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. 

“To do so at the cost of  hundreds of thousands of votes lawfully cast—not coincidentally in a county with the largest Black population in Michigan—would be unprecedented and unlawful,” the filing states. “Further, it is unconscionable and would severely undermine faith in the integrity of both this nation’s elections and judicial processes.”

The suit is one of at least five in Michigan filed by Trump and his supporters. It contains similar allegations to one that was dismissed Friday in Wayne County, where Judge Timothy Kenny wrote that claims of fraud are “incorrect and not credible.” 

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers is set to certify the county’s results by Tuesday. The state Board of Canvassers has until Nov. 23 to certify the results of all of Michigan’s 83 counties. 


Friday, Nov. 13

Judge denies effort to delay Wayne County election certification

A judge has denied attempts to slow the certification process of the Nov. 3 presidential election in Michigan, calling fraud claims “incorrect and not credible.”

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled that, outside of one claim, all others were based on misunderstandings that could have been avoided if Republican poll challengers had attended a pre-election “walk through” at which the process of counting absentee votes in Detroit was explained.

“Regrettably, they did not [attend] and, therefore, Plaintiff’ affiants did not have a full understanding of the TCF absent ballot tabulation process,” he wrote in an order handed down Friday afternoon.

He said no formal challenges were filed during the count but “sinister, fraudulent motives were ascribed to the process and the City of Detroit. Plaintiff’s interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.”

The Great Lakes Justice Center law firm sought to halt the certification process and audit of the county’s election, claiming poll workers entered wrong names, double counted ballots, duplicated ballots and were blocked from getting close enough to monitor the county.

Kenny said the plaintiffs had other avenues to press their complaints but said the greater harm would be to the electoral process. “It would cause delay in establishing the Presidential vote tabulation, as well as all other County and State races. It would also undermine faith in the Electoral System.”

The suit was  one of five in Michigan attempting to disrupt the certification of results showing former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Trump by some 147,000 votes in the state. Trump’s campaign and supporters have launched similar suits in states the president lost including Pennsylvani and Arizona.

In his order, Kenny deemed the city’s explanations of events at the TCF Center “more accurate and persuasive” than the defendants. Although he said one former city worker’s claim that voters were coached to vote for Democrats was “serious,” he dismissed it because the worker did not offer specifics: the person didn’t say where it occurred nor during which election.

Kenny also took a shot at former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Canton Township, who alleged computers at the TCF Center were wrongly connected to the internet based on seeing wi-fi routers in the room. City elections officials said they were not connected.

Kenny said “no evidence supports Mr. Colbeck’s position” and also noted that Colbeck had made fraud claims on Facebook before the election.

“His predilection to believe fraud was occurring undermines his credibility as a witness,” Kenny said of Colbeck, noting that before last week’s election, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate had “stated on Facebook that the Democrats were using COVID as a cover for Election Day fraud.” — Mike Wilkinson

Shirkey open to absentee ballot changes

Following an election in which Michiganders cast a record number of ballots by mail, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says he’s open to changing state law to allow local clerks to count absentee ballots before Election Day. 

Such a change could speed results reporting in Michigan, where clerks spent months asking for additional flexibility in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election, when it took more than 24 hours for some jurisdictions to finish counting ballots. 

“The reason we didn’t allow pre-counting [this year] is simply that I don’t think we had enough time to make sure it was secure,” Shirkey said Tuesday on WKHM radio in Jackson. 

Related: GOP leaders: We’ll abide by popular vote, won’t give Michigan to Trump

But the Clarklake Republican praised the process in Florida, where state law allows clerks to begin counting absentee ballots 22 days early but makes it a felony to release any results before polls close on Election Day. 

“I didn’t hear any leakage of those tabulations until 8 o’clock,” Shirkey said of Florida, where enough votes were tallied on election night for the Associated Press to call the race then. 

“And so that to me would be the best way to both provide security in the integrity of the ballots themselves and be able to respond to this new way, this new normal of mail-in ballots,” Shirkey said. — Jonathan Oosting 

Our latest 2020 Michigan election stories at a glance

GOP leaders: We’ll abide by popular vote, won’t give Michigan to Trump
Donald Trump’s remote path to a second term is more narrow now that GOP lawmakers in Michigan say they won’t appoint the state’s 16 electors contrary to the popular vote. Trump’s best chance of carrying Michigan is now a long-shot court fight to erase 146,000 votes.

Five suits now target Michigan’s election. One seeks to toss out 1.2M votes.
President Trump and his allies are peppering Michigan with suits to delay certification or dismiss votes — including one that would toss out all ballots in Wayne, Ingham and Washtenaw counties.

Trump: Dismiss Michigan votes GOP didn’t witness. Experts say that’s absurd.
President Trump’s legal strategy to thwart the Michigan election hinges on a claim that GOP challengers and poll workers were outnumbered and therefore votes they didn’t check shouldn’t count. It’s an argument that not only would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, but is dangerous to democracy, foes say.

Four partisans must certify Michigan’s election. One makes no promises.
A majority on the Board of State Canvassers — which consists of two Democrats and two Republicans — must vote to certify Michigan’s election. One GOP member, whose wife was a poll challenger in Detroit,  offers no guarantees. “What prevents people from cheating?” he asks.

Biden win in Kent County latest evidence of region’s demographic shifts
The Grand Rapids area helped fuel Kent’s economic resurgence by attracting young, well-educated professionals. Younger workers and an influx of Hispanic reEsidents are making the county more politically diverse.

Inside Detroit’s election: Black women’s stories of the count and the mayhem
Hear firsthand accounts from the battlefield as told by five Detroit election workers who sought to protect the city’s vote and clapped back at pro-Trump activists who cried fraud and tried to derail the count.

Thursday, Nov. 12

Ruth Johnson says fraud claims  'require court intervention'

Michigan Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, a former secretary of state, wrote in an affidavit that allegations of voting improprieties in Wayne County are “very concerning” and “require court intervention.”

In a two-page affidavit filed Wednesday in a suit seeking to delay certification of the Wayne County’s election results, Johnson wrote she is concerned by allegations of voter coaching, polling staffers not requesting IDs from voters and other claims made in affidavits by voters and election workers.

One of affidavits she cited is from election worker Melissa Carone, a contract information technologies worker for Dominion Voting Systems.

Carone alleges that many ballot counters at TCF Center in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted incorrectly used machines in a way that could potentially have scanned some ballots multiple times. 

She also alleges that Republican poll watchers were not at every station, and that two other IT employees on site may have covered up an issue that arose during the ballot counting process — though she fails to mention what the issue was. 

She also claims that vans that arrived to deliver food for workers never delivered food, and insinuates in her affidavit that they brought in the final 100,000 ballots that needed to be counted in the state. (She doesn’t elaborate on the claim, which may refer to a debunked assertion that a van bringing ballots to TCF Center that was in fact a news van).

There is no evidence of these claims outside of the affidavit from Carone, who identifies herself in the document as a Republican. Wayne Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny heard arguments in the request for an injunction on Wednesday and is expected to issue a ruling on Friday.  — Mansur Shaheen


Wednesday, Nov. 11

Decision Friday on whether to stop certification

Wayne County Chief Judge TImothy Kenny will decide by noon Friday whether to grant an injunction that would stop the certification of the Detroit election results from Nov. 3.

Plaintiffs have claimed the process of counting absentee ballots was flawed, with reports of workers duplicating ballots, using different names than were on ballot envelopes and of “tens of thousands” of ballots arriving late.

President Donald Trump lost Michigan by about 150,000 votes. In Detroit, President-elect Joe Biden beat Trump 233,908 to 12,654. The pro-Biden margin among absentee voters in Detroit , just over 153,000 votes, were essential to Biden’s Michigan victory.

During arguments Wednesday, attorney David Kallman asked Kenny to block certification of the results until an audit is performed, but he hasn’t asked for a recount. He said a recount would be no good if it “recounted the votes that were put in fraudulently in the first place.”

His lawsuit, however, never says how many votes might be changed or affected by the audit he is seeking.

David Fink, an attorney for Detroit, decried the lawsuit’s claims as “conspiracy theories” and said Detroit's voters — and perhaps millions more — could be disenfranchised if the certification is delayed.  He said the election was "extraordinarily well run," and noted that many of the allegations have arisen in similar lawsuits in recent weeks by Trump and his surrogates, none of which has been successful.

"This is like 'Groundhog Day,' but unlike 'Groundhog Day,' this isn't funny at all,” Fink said, referring to a comedy movie in which the same day repeats itself.

Judges in Michigan and in other states have thrown out many of these lawsuits.  — Mike Wilkinson

Catch up on Bridge's fact checks on fraud claims

Dead ‘voter’ cited in Trump lawsuit never cast ballot, Michigan records show
Republican President Donald Trump's new federal lawsuit seeking to delay certification of Michigan election results includes an affidavit from a mother who claims her dead son voted. In fact, that’s a case of mistaken identity, according to the Department of State.

GOP clerk’s typo in Michigan fuels false ‘vote dumping’ claims
One week after the election, untrue claims about an extra 138,000 votes for Joe Biden in  Shiawassee County still persist — and are being cited in fundraising emails — even though election officials say the mistake was corrected within minutes.

Sharpies didn’t ruin ballots in Michigan. In fact, they’re often preferred
False claims about ballots spoiled by markers fester in Michigan, even though they have been discounted by elections officials and Republican officials. ‘The felt-tip markers versus ballpoint pen controversy” is ‘not true,’ one top GOP lawmaker says.

Meet Michigan’s ‘dead’ voters. They’re quite alive, despite false fraud claims
President Trump’s supporters are claiming hundreds of Michigan dead voters cast ballots last week. In fact, most assertions arise from typographical errors such as clerks entering placeholder birthdates. 

Joe Biden is president-elect. Here’s what has to happen before he’s sworn in
The Democratic former vice president has enough electoral votes to become 46th president. But 83 counties need to be canvassed and Michigan’s 16 electors still need to cast their votes before he is sworn in.

Michigan deeply divided over race, education, geography and news feeds
Divisions in our state go beyond who we supported for president. Voters say we are increasingly separated by political tribes, what we see on social media and what lessons we took from police protests.

Human error, Dominion voting equipment fuel false fraud claims in Michigan
A mistake by a Republican clerk in northern Michigan has taken on a life of its own and become a talking point for Donald Trump and his supporters who claim voter fraud. But experts say what happened on election night was a “one-off” mistake that was quickly corrected.

As Biden defeats Trump, GOP launches inquiry into Michigan election
In a rare weekend meeting, amid unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud by President Trump, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature on Saturday used unprecedented subpoena power to demand expansive records from the state’s Nov. 3 election.

First Person | Detroit poll workers are heroes of this election
Our role was clear: ensure all votes were counted without interruption regardless of who they were for, writes two nonpartisan poll challengers.

First Person | As GOP challengers, we faced ‘open intimidation’ in Detroit
Anne Vanker, of Grosse Pointe, said she and other Republican poll challengers were brushed off when they asked questions and discouraged from getting up-close views of ballots during the count operation in Detroit.

First Person | I was a Detroit poll challenger. The GOP came to make havoc.
Before ballots even began to be counted at TCF Center, Republican poll challengers were determined to find fraud and conspiracy in what was instead democracy in action, writes a Democratic poll challenger.

Detroit poll challengers were in same room, but had different accounts
Republican poll challengers say they were limited in where they could walk and who they could bring in during ballot counting at the TCF Center. Their Democratic counterparts (and an election official) counter that votes were counted professionally and it was the GOP that complicated the process. 

Don’t blame fraud: Dwindling suburban support lost Michigan for Trump
Plenty of counties — even Republican ones — took a while to count absentee votes in Michigan, but Donald Trump is laser-focused on Detroit, which has always supported Democrats. His loss, though, is best explained by examining outstate numbers.

GOP calls for Michigan election probe. Officials say their claims are weak.
The Republican National Committee is deploying legal teams to Michigan and calling for a federal investigation into ‘irregularities’ But elections officials — including some Republican clerks — say their claims don’t add up to much.

Republicans largely quiet as Trump claims fraud, falsely says he won Michigan
Democrats condemned President Trump’s unproven claims of voter fraud in Detroit. Republicans were more circumspect.


New Trump suit seeks to block Michigan election certification

President Donald Trump’s campaign attorneys said Tuesday evening they plan to file a new federal lawsuit to stop Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from certifying election results here pending further review of “irregularities.”

Attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne alleged “pervasive” issues with absentee ballot counting in Detroit but said the lawsuit will be filed in the Western District of Michigan federal court in Grand Rapids, known for its more conservative judges. 

“We have more than 100 affidavits, that are sworn affidavits, each one accounts for multiple violations of Michigan's election code,” he said. “Those will all be included in the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit had not yet been filed as of 6:30 p.m. So it’s not clear if the complaint will make substantially different arguments than a separate lawsuit the campaign filed last week in the Michigan Court of Claims, where a judge declined to halt absentee ballot counting because she said the suit lacked merit was based on “hearsay.”

In a press call announcing the new litigation, Hearne and Trump 2020 General Counsel Matt Morgan alleged “unequal treatment” of poll challengers in Detroit, where officials temporarily barred new challengers after Republicans had flooded the TCF Center. 

They also raised questions about voting equipment software used in Antrim County, where a human error by a Republican clerk initially boosted Joe Biden’s vote tally in the GOP stronghold, a mistake that was fixed last week. 

“Our complaint will request that the Michigan secretary of state not certify the election results until we've been able to verify and confirm that the ballots cast were tabulated according to the law,” Morgan said. “We want to make sure that no vote tally includes fraudulently or unlawfully cast ballots.”

Biden won Michigan by roughly 150,000 votes, according to an unofficial tally, a margin that is nearly 14 times as large as Trump’s 10,704-vote victory here in 2016. 

Asked if the campaign believes the new lawsuit will help Trump overcome that large vote deficit in Michigan, spokesperson Tim Murtaugh called the litigation “an effort to find out more information” about the state’s election process.

“We do believe that ultimately, President Trump will be declared the winner of the election,” he said.  — Jonathan Oosting

John James, RNC form legal fund

John James, R-Farmington Hills, formed a legal fund with the Republican National Committee on Monday, days after losing a Senate race that he has yet to concede.

James was defeated by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, by over 80,000 votes. But the Republican's campaign has alleged voter fraud in Wayne County, claiming that Republican observers were not allowed to monitor the counting of votes in the TCF Center, and that ballots received after Election Day were backdated. Officials have said there were an equal amount of Democratic and Republican challengers but space was limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they have denied that ballots were illegally backdated. 

The James campaign did not respond to Bridge when asked for comment. — Mansur Shaheen

McQuade, Gordon join Biden transition team

Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney for the Eastern Michigan district, has been named to the transition team of president-elect Joe Biden.

McQuade served as the United States attorney for eastern Michigan from 2010 to 2017. An appointee of former President Barack Obama, she quit when President Donald Trump sought the resignation of 45 U.S. attorneys appointed by Democrats.

McQuade, who prosecuted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is part of a volunteer team that is advising Biden on the Department of Justice. 

Other Michigan residents on the volunteer transition team include Robert Gordon, who leads the state health department; Dave Noble of the ACLU of Michigan, who is advising on NASA; Melanca Clark, CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation Michael Barr, a dean at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy;  and Kerry Duggan of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters who is advising the Department of Energy. — Mansur Shaheen

Lawsuit seeks to block election certification

A lawsuit has been filed in Wayne County seeking to block the certification of election results in Michigan.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday by Lansing attorney David Kallman against the City of Detroit, Detroit Elections Commission, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey and the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.  

It alleges a range of illegal conduct during the counting of ballots, including coaching people how to vote and not allowing Republican poll challengers to properly oversee ballots as they were counted. State and city officials say the election was conducted properly.

The suit includes six affidavits, according to the Detroit Free Press, but does not include any additional evidence detailing the alleged fraud. 

Republican President Donald Trump has refused to concede against Democratic president-elect Joe Biden, making claims of electoral fraud in Wayne County and a host of other states nationwide. The president lost Michigan by nearly 150,000 votes.

A lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign requesting to stop the counting of absentee ballots was thrown out last week. An effort to appeal it was deemed "defective" Monday and the case hadn't been refiled as of Tuesday afternoon.

Besides Trump, Senate challenger John James, R-Farmington Hills, also has not conceded his race against Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills. James’ legal team has also made complaints of electoral fraud in Wayne County. Peters won the race by over 80,000 votes. — Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Nov. 9

Trump lawsuit deemed 'defective'

Republican President Donald Trump is attempting to appeal a lawsuit over Michigan absentee ballot counting, but his initial attempt was deemed "defective.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Monday balked at a filing from the Trump campaign attorney Mark "Thor" Hearne because it did not include basic documentation required in all cases, including a copy of the prior judgement. 

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens last week rejected Trump's attempt to stop absentee ballot counting in Michigan, where Democrat Joe Biden topped Trump by nearly 150,000 votes in unofficial results. 

Stephens, a Democratic appointee, ruled that the campaign's primary evidence was "hearsay" and there is "no basis" to believe the lawsuit would be successful. Besides, all Michigan jurisdictions had already finished counting absentee ballots by the time she ruled from the bench on Thursday, she noted.

But the lawsuit is not “moot” because reviews and certification of the election results continue, Hearn wrote in an attempted appeal filing. He offered no additional evidence for allegations that GOP poll challengers were denied “meaningful access” to Michigan polling places.

The Court of Appeals is giving the Trump campaign 21 days to submit required information that was missing from its filing. If not, the case could be dismissed.Jonathan Oosting


Former Michigan elections director disputes claims of electoral fraud

Detroit elections adviser Chris Thomas says “there is no validity whatsoever,” to allegations of electoral fraud in Wayne County.

Thomas, the state's former director of elections, addressed the accusations on WDIV’s “Flashpoint” Sunday, saying claims that vote counters backdated late ballots are false, and that there was a process to ensure clerical errors made in initially processing votes did not disenfranchise voters.

He addressed claims from President Donald Trump and other Republicans that staff at TCF Center in downtown Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted, were hiding something by covering windows as groups of Republican supporters massed outside in protest.

“There were a massive number of challengers in the room for both the parties,” Thomas said, adding the “Republican Party had more challenges in the room then they’re entitled to.”

Protesters outside the TCF Center demanded to be let into the building, and at some points chanted for the votes to stop being counted. 

Thomas told Flashpoint that workers were discomforted and distracted by the commotion and covering the windows with pizza boxes “gave the workers the confidence they needed to move ahead with the work.”

While the results of the presidential election, and each of the federal races in the state, have been called, and all the votes have been counted in Wayne County, neither Trump nor U.S. Senate challenger John James of Farmington Hills have conceded.

On Saturday, the Republican-controlled Legislature subpoenaed documents related to the election.

A lawsuit from the Trump campaign in Michigan asking for access to surveillance of ballot drop boxes was thrown out last week.  — Mansur Shaheen


Saturday, Nov. 7

Joe Biden wins presidency

Democrat Joe Biden will became the 46th president of the United States, according to projections Saturday by the Associated Press and several news sites including Fox News, after winning Pennsylvania. Although votes are still being counted in several states, the unofficial victory in Pennsylvania pushed Biden over the 270-vote Electoral College threshold to become president-elect.

Republican President Donald Trump almost immediately issued a statement disputing that Biden had won and continuing to insist that fraudulent ballots produced inaccurate results. He vowed to continue lawsuits filed in several states, including Michigan. “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated," the president wrote.  

As Biden was proclaimed president-elect, the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature met in an unusual session on Saturday to issue unprecedented subpoenas seeking records from the state on alleged irregularities on vote counts in Michigan.   

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and co-chair of Biden's national campaign, issued a statement around 11:30 a.m. Saturday saying "I look forward to working with both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19, work to rebuild our economy, and save lives."

On Twitter, Biden wrote, "The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not."

Earlier Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter, "I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!"

Shortly after noon, the Associated Press also declared Biden the winner of Nevada.


Thursday, Nov. 5

Trump makes fraud claims

President Donald Trump made claims of potential electoral fraud in Detroit during a news conference Thursday night.

The president told reporters that observers were being denied access to vote counting centers, and repeated claims that fraudulent ballots were being accepted in the city.

“Detroit and Philadelphia are known as two of the most politically corrupt places in our country — easily,” Trump said, adding that they “cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a presidential race, a very important presidential race,”

Trump said that cardboard was used to deny observers a view of ballots being counted at Detroit’s TCF Center, referencing poll workers using pizza boxes to block the view of protesters demanding the counting be stopped.

The president also claimed that votes were arriving at the center as late as 4 a.m., referencing an already debunked claim that a WXYZ Detroit photographer arriving late at night with work equipment was instead delivering ballots.

Related: 

He also claimed that poll workers in Michigan were duplicating ballots, which there is no current evidence of.

 “I wouldn't say Detroit has the best reputation for election integrity,” he said.

Michigan was called in favor of Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden on Wednesday night, a victory that came in large part due to mail in ballots in Wayne County. The president said Wednesday that he would 

Republican Senate challenger John James, who is projected by the AP to lose his race against Democratic incumbent Gary Peters, has made claims of electoral fraud at the TCF Center as well. James, who is behind Sen. Gary Peters by 80,000 votes, wouldn’t concede Thursday, saying he fears millions of residents may be “disenfranchised by a dishonest few who cheat.” .-- Mansur Shaheen

Catch up on our Friday morning stories

How Biden won, even as much of Michigan went for Trump: 5 election takeaways
Pivot counties are less likely to swing. Kent County is more Democratic but Michigan remains divided politically. Here’s what to make of Biden’s narrow win.

Trump’s options narrow in Michigan. Lawsuit, recount seen as long shots.
Trump has a few changes to make his case that Michigan’s election was fraudulent over the next few weeks. But the odds of challenging or erasing 100,000-plus votes are slim.

Judge dismisses President Trump’s suit to stop absentee counting in Michigan
A Michigan judge on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to halt absentee ballot counting in the state, calling his campaign’s lone piece of evidence “hearsay” and telling attorneys there is “no basis” to believe the lawsuit has merit.

What happened when conservatives tried to halt Detroit’s election count
Republicans contend that not enough conservative challengers are monitoring Detroit’s vote count. That’s not true, officials say.

Post-election, Detroit braces for legal challenges to its results
As President Donald Trump questions the integrity of Michigan’s elections, the focus of the race swings to Detroit, which has had its share of vote challenges. Controversies already are arising with the city’s count.

Democratic wins shift power balance on Michigan Supreme Court
Wins for Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Grand Rapids attorney Elizabeth Welch have shifted the ideological makeup of Michigan’s high court from a 4-3 conservative majority to a 4-3 majority of justices nominated by Democrats.


James requests Wayne Count preserve election documents

Republican John James is requesting the Wayne County clerk preserve documents related to the election, absentee ballot requests and poll books, the James campaign confirmed to Bridge Michigan. The campaign also sent a Freedom of Information Act request to view security footage of outdoor ballot drop boxes.

The letter, obtained by MLive’s Malachi Barrett, says that James’ lawyers have “documented hundreds of reports of irregularities that occurred during the processing of Wayne County absent voter ballots at the TCF Center.”

The Associated Press declared James’ opponent, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, the winner of Michigan’s senate race on Wednesday night. James has not conceded the race.

Related: Sen. Gary Peters edges ahead of GOP challenger John James in Michigan

James campaign counsel James Spies cites “challenger intimidation, lack of access, unsecure ballots, improper processing, failure to verify signatures, mismatched envelops and ballots, ballot back-dating, failure to verify in e-poll and supplemental poll books and even reports of nearly 40,000 unidentified ballots arriving at 3:45 a.m. on November 4th,” in his letter.

This comes after allegations of voter fraud and “cheating” made by Republicans in the days following Nov. 3. Many conspiracies about potential electioneering have also circulated social media.

One debunked conspiracy is regarding ballots arriving late at night to the TCF Center from a van. WXYZ Detroit has confirmed that the video in question is a video of one of their photographers loading gear into a wagon for work.

On Wednesday, a group of demonstrators appeared outside the TCF Center, protesting the counting of the ballots.
“At this time there is enough credible evidence to warrant an investigation to ensure that elections were conducted in a transparent, legal and fair manner,” James said in a statement Thursday. — Mansur Shaheen


GOP selects Wentworth as leader

With Republicans returning a majority to the Michigan House next year, GOP colleagues on Thursday selected state Rep. Jason Wentworth as their next leader.

Wentworth, who lives in Farwell in Clare County, will serve as House speaker for the 2021-22 session. He succeeds Rep. Lee Chatfield of Levering in Emmet County, who could not run for re-election after serving a maximum of three years. 

In a statement, Wentworth said he was “honored” his colleagues selected him for the role and said he looked forward to a continued partnership with the GOP-led Senate. 

“We will continue to extend a hand of collaboration to our governor with hope and confidence she will take it so we can work together and solve problems for the people of this state,” he said, referrign to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Wentworth, 38, joined the U.S. Army after high school, working for five years as a military police officer and completing a tour in South Korea. He then worked in both private and public law enforcement, according to his official biography.

GOP President Donald Trump lost Michigan to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, but Republican candidates won 58 out of 110 state House races to return a majority the party has held since 2011.

“These are challenging times – politically, socially, and economically – and people are worried about their future,” Wentworth said. “It is our duty to demonstrate steady leadership and bold solutions, and that’s exactly what we’ll do.” — Jonathan Oosting


John James won't concede, alleges fraud

Republican John James isn’t conceding his election bid against Sen. Gary Peters, saying he has deep concerns that millions of Michiganders may have been disenfranchised by a dishonest few who cheat.” 

Peters, D-Bloomingfield Hills, was declared the winner of the race by the Associated Press on Wednesday night, and holds a lead of over 80,000 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting. 

“Fair elections are at the foundation of representative democracy. American citizens deserve to know that the democratic process has not been circumvented by the powerful or politically connected,” James said in a statement, “While not everyone wins in an election, voters must be confident that the election was fair and honest.”

James’ attorney has said there were not enough Republican poll inspectors in Detroit during counting of absentee ballots.

That allegation emerged in a separate lawsuit related to the election, and officials for the city have acknowledged there were not an equal number of Republican and Democratic inspectors but called it a hiring issue that did not affect the results. — Mansur Shaheen


Peters calls on James to concede

Sen. Gary Peters on Thursday said disputes over the election are “sad and pathetic,” and asked his opponent, Republican John James, to “accept the opinion and the votes of the people of the state of Michigan.”

Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, was declared the winner by the Associated Press at 9:12 p.m. Wednesday and led by about 85,000 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

The James campaign has not conceded the race, instead saying there are “very serious concerns over what we’ve seen in the past few days transpire in Wayne County,” according to campaign counsel Charlie Spies.

He alleges that Democratic elections inspectors far outnumbered Republican ones in Wayne County.

The Donald Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging protocol was not followed during the counting and recording of votes in Wayne County, though they did not cite specific examples of where protocol was violated. Mansur Shaheen


Stevens wins re-election

Democratic U.S. House Rep Haley Stevens has won re-election in Michigan’s 11th district, as projected by the Associated Press at 11:09 a.m.  Thursday.

Stevens defeated Republican challenger Eric Esshaki in a race that came down to the wire. She was up 10,000 votes with nearly all of the votes counted.

The district includes parts of Oakland and Wayne counties. 

The Democrat underperformed in Oakland County, but a strong showing in Wayne County in absentee ballots counted propelled her to victory — Mansur Shaheen


Peter Meijer wins Michigan’s 3rd district

Republican Peter Meijer has won the U.S. House seat in Michigan’s 3rd district, as projected by the Associated Press at 8:39 p.m. Wednesday night.

Meijer, heir to the Meijer grocery chain, defeated immigration attorney Hillary Scholten by over 20,000 votes in the west Michigan district that represents Ionia, Barry, and Calhoun counties and parts of Kent County.

Republicans regained the seat, after its previous occupant, Justin Amash, left the party in 2019 to become an independent. Amash did not seek re-election in 2019.

The Associated Press also projected Dan Kildee, D-Flint, to win re-election in Michigan’s 5th district at 8:37 p.m. on Wednesday. Mansur Shaheen


Wednesday, Nov. 4

24 hours after polls close, most Michigan votes have been tabulated 

Just over 24 hours after Michigan polling places closed, tabulation of ballots “by and large” is complete and “counties are in the final stages of receiving reports from the last remaining jurisdictions as we speak,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a 8 p.m. news conference Wednesday. 

That’s nearly two days faster than Benson had earlier said the job might take. Election officials feared it could take up to three days to tabulate the results due to the extra time it takes to process absentee ballots. 

Over the next two weeks, counties will be canvassing the election results, which involves bipartisan election workers double checking election processes to ensure accurate results. 

It was during the canvassing process in August that officials discovered issues with mismatched poll books and vote totals in nearly three-quarters of Detroit’s absentee precincts — a finding that prompted the Secretary of State’s office to provide extra support to the city in the run up to the November election. 

Once the canvass is complete, the election results will become official. — Riley Beggin


Biden wins Michigan

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has won the state of Michigan, as projected by the Associated Press at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Biden won the state after a surge of absentee ballots were counted from Wayne and Oakland counties counted Wednesday The former vice president holds a 70,000 vote margin over his opponent with nearly all of the votes counted.

Michigan went in favor of Republican Donald Trump in 2016 by a razor-thin margin, and was seen as a crucial piece of both candidates' paths to victory this election. 

Victory in Michigan would give Biden 16 electoral votes. At 6 p.m., The New York Times had Biden at 253 electoral votes, 17 shy of what is necessary for an Electoral College victory

The Trump campaign is attempting to contest the results of Michigan, filing a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that proper protocol wasn’t followed while counting absentee ballots, though the lawsuit failed to give any specific examples where protocol was not followed. — Mansur Shaheen


How Biden won

Donald Trump won Michigan by a razor-thin 10,704 votes in 2016. Fortunes reversed in 2020, with the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by about 63,000 on late afternoon Wednesday, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.  Most of those uncounted ballots are in Democratic strongholds.

That small change in vote margin, representing less than 1 in 100 Michigan voters, could determine the presidency. Both campaigns were relying heavily on the state’s 16 electoral votes to help them reach the 270 electoral votes needed to reach the White House. 

To try to win those electoral votes, Trump and Biden flexed muscles in different parts of the state. Read the full analysis >


Trump files suit in Michigan to stop count

President Donald Trump’s campaign announced Wednesday it is filing a lawsuit to try to temporarily halt Michigan’s ongoing absentee ballot count.

In a statement, campaign manager Bill Stepien alleged the Trump campaign was denied “meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process” in Michigan.  

It’s not immediately clear  what type of access Stepien is referring to. A copy of the legal complaint was not immediately available. 

Michigan law allows for the continual presence of both poll watchers and poll challengers in precincts, including absentee counting boards. The latter must be appointed by political parties or qualified interest groups and can stand or sit behind ballot processing tables. 

The suit comes as election clerks and poll workers attempt to finish counting a record number of absentee ballots that were legally cast by Michigan voters in the runup to Election Day. Early results from in-person voting favored Trump. But absentee ballots, which take longer to count, have favored Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who now leads Trump by 45,381 votes with 96 percent of the count complete.  Read more >


Catch up on our afternoon stories

Trump campaign says it’s sued to stop Michigan election count
President Donald Trump's campaign says it’s sued as as election clerks and poll workers attempt to finish counting a record number of absentee ballots that were legally cast by Michigan voters in the run-up to Election Day. 

Post-election, Detroit braces for legal challenges to its results
As President Donald Trump questions the integrity of Michigan’s elections, the focus of the race swings to Detroit, which has had its share of vote challenges. Controversies already are arising with the city’s count.


Slotkin wins re-election, AP reports

U.S. House Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, has won re-election to represent Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, the Associated Press has reported.

Slotkin, who flipped the seat from Republicans in 2018, led by 17,000 votes over Republican challenger Paul Junge around noon on Wednesday. The district covers parts of Oakland County (where she trailed); Livingston County (a Republican stronghold where she still edged Junge) and Ingham County, which her campaign made a priority in the runup to Nov. 3.

While there were worries about turnout in East Lansing due to Michigan State University students not living on campus, Slotkin told reporters on Wednesday that canvassing up until the final day before the election helped.

Slotkin predicts a tough legislative session ahead, with the potential for a split Legislature with Republican control of the Senate, and Congress is “going to need people to step up and lead” in the coming year.

“More hard work and compromise to get something done” will be necessary in 2021, she said, adding that “those of us who have bipartisanship in our bones will be more equipped.” — Mansur Shaheen


Michigan sets record for voter turnout

Michigan set a voter turnout record in Tuesday’s election, topping a record set in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president.

While clerks and election workers were still counting absentee ballots in some parts of Michigan on Wednesday morning, officials had already tallied more than 5.1 million votes in the race between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

That surpassed the prior high-water mark set by 5,039,080 voters in 2008.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson predicted Tuesday that as many as 5.5 million ballots could be cast. It’s not yet clear whether the state will hit that mark, but it has already made history. — Jonathan Oosting


McCormack wins one of two open Michigan Supreme Court seats

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack has won re-election to the court, securing one of two seats that will likely determine the court’s ideological leanings.

As of Wednesday morning, McCormack, an incumbent, had secured 31.2 percent of the 2.74 million votes tallied in the race. She was one of seven candidates vying for the seats, including two nominees each nominated by the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties, along with one Green Party nominee.

The court’s 4-3 Republican majority is up for grabs. The race, while technically nonpartisan, has deep political significance. The court has recently taken up a host of politically charged issues, including an early October decision that limited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency powers.

It’s still unclear who will win the second seat, which was vacated by Republican-appointed  Justice Stephen Markman, who is aged-limited from running for another term. 

As of Wednesday morning, Democratic nominee Elizabeth Welch, a Grand Rapids attorney, and Republican nominee Mary Kelly, a St. Clair County prosecutor, were locked in a close race for that seat. Welch was slightly ahead with 18.9 percent of votes cast, while Kelly had 18.1 percent.

McCormack, a former dean at the University of Michigan law school, joined the court in 2013. On the court, she has worked on state task forces to improve Michiganders’ access to the legal system and reform the state’s criminal justice system. 

In a statement Wednesday morning, McCormack vowed to serve with “the utmost integrity and fairness.

She called her win “a victory for the people across the state who believe, as I do, that the courtroom is a place where being right is more important than being popular or powerful.”

“In the coming term I will continue to fight for the court’s independence and for access to justice for all Michiganders,” McCormack wrote. “I will continue to work to make Michigan a national leader in ensuring transparency, fairness and efficiency in courthouses throughout the state where millions of people go for justice every year.” — Kelly House


Coulter, McDonald win in Oakland County; Lucido new Macomb County prosecutor

Oakland County Executive David Coulter won re-election to a four-year term on Tuesday, while Democrats were ahead in other key races including prosecutor.

Coulter, a former mayor of Ferndale, was appointed to the interim post in 2019 after the death of longtime Republican Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He was leading Mike Kowall, a Republican and former state senator, by 80,000 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

Fellow Democrat Karen McDonad was leading Republican Lin Goetz by 100,000 votes in the race to succeed outgoing prosecutor Jessica Cooper, a Democrat whom McDonald defeated in the August primary.  

Longtime Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, a Republican, held a sizable lead over Vincent Gregory, a former state senator and Democrat.

In neighboring Macomb County, state Sen. Majority Whip Peter Lucido defeated former Judge Mary Chrzanowski by 22,000 votes. 

The race for Macomb County clerk, meanwhile, was tight with 95 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Anthony Forlini was  leading Fred Miller, a Democrat who in 2018 was elected to complete the term of ousted Clerk Karen Spangler. — Mansur Shaheen


Biden pulls ahead in Michigan

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has pulled ahead in Michigan, according to live vote counts from the Associated Press. 

The former vice president trailed for much of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but a surge of mail in ballots from Wayne and Macomb counties overwhelmingly favored the Democrat. He now holds a 20,000-vote lead with over 95 percent of votes reported.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, has seen his vote totals follow a similar trend, as he is running close to Republican challenger John James on Wednesday morning, with just under 5 million votes counted. Mansur Shaheen


Slotkin leads Junge

Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly,  has gained the lead over Republican Paul Junge in her bid for a second term, and is up by about 15,000 votes with more than 95  percent of precincts reporting.

Fellow Democratic U.S. House Rep. Haley Stevens remains behind in early results as of Wednesday morning, though her race has less than 50 percent of the votes counted and is too close to call.

Both flipped House seats in 2018 that had been held by Republicans.

Slotkin is a freshman representative running for re-election in Michigan’s 8th District, which includes Livingston, Ingham and parts of Oakland counties. She was running closely behind Republican challenger Paul Junge, a former official in President Donald Trump’s administration.

In the 11th District that includes Wayne County suburbs and parts of Oakland County, Stevens trailed Republican and former nursing home worker Eric Esshaki.

In the 3rd District in west Michigan, grocery store heir Peter Meijer, a Republican, had a 17 percentage point lead over Democrat Hillary Scholten in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican who left the party and opted against re-election.

The results of ten Michigan U.S. House races were called by AP Politics as well, with each race being won by either the incumbent candidate, or the candidate representing the incumbent party.

Races in Michigan’s 3rd and 5th districts have yet to be called. In the 5th district, Democratic incumbent Dan Kildee holds a 6 percentage point lead over Republican challenger Tim Kelly with over 75 percent of the votes counted. — Mansur Shaheen (This post was updated to reflect new vote totals in the 8th District)


All of our Michigan election stories (so far) today

Why Michigan is waiting: State law bars early counting of absentee votes
Michigan officials have warned for weeks that it could take several days to fully count absentee ballots. Other states allow earlier processing, but Michigan Republicans have blocked efforts for earlier counts, citing fraud fears.

In Michigan, Trump expands support in rural counties; Biden carries suburbs
President Donald Trump did better in northern Michigan and many areas than he did in 2016, while Democrat Joe Biden banks on late counts from suburbs and Wayne County.

Need election results? Refresh these links for Michigan state, county tallies
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson warns final results of the general election may take until Friday to count. 

Republicans flip Democratic seats, keep majority in Michigan House
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hit the campaign trail last month to campaign for House Democrats trying to break the GOP’s decade-long grip on the Michigan Legislature. Instead, Republicans are likely to retain control of both the House and Senate for the remainder of Whitmer’s first term.

Michigan voters approve Proposal 1, changing rules for parks funding
Proposal 1, a statewide ballot measure to remove a $500 million cap on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and give fund managers more flexibility in how they spend trust fund dollars, passed resoundingly.


Tuesday, Nov. 3

Detroit officials predict record turnout

Detroit officials announced 53 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, which tops the mark set in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president.

“It is the probably the highest turnout that we've had in more than 20 to 30 years in the city of Detroit,” election consultant Daniel Baxter told reporters on Tuesday night.

Turnout was 53 percent in the city in 2008, but this year’s mark is expected to be slightly higher. — Mansur Shaheen


Results may be available sooner than Friday, Benson says

Counting of absentee ballots is proceeding “quite quickly” and smoothly in some of the state's’ largest jurisdictions, including Detroit and Oakland County, a spokesperson with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday afternoon. 

“Things are going quite well and they’re working quite quickly,” said spokesperson Jake Rollow. “But you just never know how things are going to go with elections”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had estimated that it could take up to 80 hours — more than three days — to fully tabulate results. 

While that may still be the case, it’s looking like it could be sooner than that, Rollow said. 

When a race is called “absolutely has to do with how close the race is,” he said. If it’s a blow-out, it may be clear who won a race earlier. If it’s very tight, it may come down to jurisdictions counting ballots days from now. Riley Beggin


Postal Service declines order to speed delivery of absentee ballots

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to go through mail processing facilities in 15 states including Michigan and speed the delivery of absentee ballots still en route to clerks’ offices. 

But attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department told the court they wouldn’t follow the order, arguing they aren’t able to accelerate the review process due to inspectors’ schedules. 

Absentee ballots that are received after 8 p.m. today don’t count, and there have been significant mail delays in recent weeks especially in the postal district covering southeast Michigan. 

Election officials urged voters to drop off their ballots in person at the clerk’s office or a ballot drop box after Oct. 19. — Riley Beggin


Same-day registrations rival March primary

As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 12,530 Michiganders had taken advantage of same-day registration to vote in the presidential election, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. 

That rivaled the roughly 13,000 same-day registrations from the March presidential primary, when the option proved popular in college towns. 

On Tuesday, there were reports of lines at the clerk’s office in Ann Arbor and a satellite clerk’s office in Allendale near Grand Valley State University, said Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for Benson. 

In Ann Arbor, “we’ve heard they bought pizza for everyone in line, and there are supposedly election workers who are going up and down the line to make sure everybody who’s there is in the right place,” Rollow said. 

In the March primary, lines increased after 4 p.m., when clerks’ offices handled roughly 7,000 of the 13,000 same-day registrations. For context, Republican President Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016.

“What we remember from March, of course, is that... people were still processed, they got through, they registered and they voted, it just took a little longer,” Rollow said. — Jonathan Oosting


Kamala Harris stops in Southfield

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris returned to Michigan on Election Day in a last-minute effort to boost voter turnout in metro Detroit.

Speaking with reporters at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Harris said she’s “just here to remind people in Detroit that they are seen and heard by Joe [Biden] and me, and also that they may actually decide the outcome of this race.”

The U.S. senator from California, who could be the first African American and Indian American woman vice president, said she’ll also use the trip to remind voters that “it’s important that everyone votes” before polls close at 8 p.m.

“And of course, that the path to the White House and the path to determining who will be the next president of the United States, without question, runs through Michigan.”

Harris’ first stop was a Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 building in Southfield, an African-American majority city in vote-rich Oakland County, where she was joined by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, who faces a tough bid for re-election against Republican challenger John James, a Farmington Hills businessman. — Jonathan Oosting


Disinformation robocalls reported in Flint

Robocallers are reportedly disseminating false information to Flint residents to keep them from the polls Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned her Twitter followers Tuesday morning.

“Getting reports of multiple robocalls going to Flint residents that, due to long lines, they should vote tomorrow,” Nessel tweeted. “Obviously this is FALSE and an effort to suppress the vote.”

Voters must be in line at the polls by 8 p.m. in order to vote in Tuesday’s election. You can learn more about how to vote here.

The warning about Flint robocalls follow reports Monday evening of text messages spreading false claims of “ballot sensor issues” in Dearborn.

Robocalls and other attempts to mislead voters or keep them from the polls have taken center stage in Michigan this election season. In October, Nessel filed felony charges against high-profile Republican operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl in connection with robocalls aimed at discouraging voters in Detroit and other areas with large African-American populations.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Burkman and Wohl to make “curative” robocalls to anyone who received the earlier robocall.

In a statement Tuesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reminded Michiganders to report misinformation to the state at misinformation@michigan.gov. — Kelly House


More than 3 million absentee ballots received; a suspicious text message in Dearborn

There are no reported cases of voter intimidation or confusion yet as polling places open for voting on Election Day, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday morning. 

However, the Attorney General’s office plans to look into a text message pretending to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation received by multiple voters in Dearborn. The text says there’s an issue with the sensors used to scan ballots and instructs voters “if you are intending on voting for Joe Biden, you must bubble in Trump and vice versa.”

This is not true, the Secretary of State’s office said. “That’s not an issue, you vote for whoever you want to vote for and the tabulator will tabulate it correctly,” spokesperson Tracy Wimmer said.

The Attorney General’s office told Bridge that the ACLU alerted them of the issue on Monday, though they don’t yet know the source or number of people who received the text. 

Officials also reported that more than 3 million absentee ballots have already been returned to clerk’s offices as of Tuesday morning. 

That’s around three times more than were received in the last presidential election in 2016, due in large part to a change in state law that allows for no-reason absentee voting. Election officials expect at least another 2 million people to vote in person, breaking turnout records. — Riley Beggin


Guns allowed at most polls after court doesn’t respond to appeal

The open carry of firearms is allowed at most polling places on Election Day, except in polling places that are also designated weapons-free zones, such as churches and schools. 

That remains unchanged from a week ago, when a Court of Claims judge struck down a rule put in place by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson banning the open carry of guns within 100 feet of polling places. The judge determined the voter intimidation is already a felony criminal offense, providing protection for voters. 

Benson issued the rule as some raised concerns about potential voter intimidation and armed poll watchers on Election Day in the wake of President Donald Trump’s calls for supporters to show up to the polls to watch out for fraud. There were also reports of social media posts circulating in conservative circles of fears of left-wing groups showing up at polling places. 

Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which declined to hear it. Then they appealed it to the state Supreme Court, asking it to rule on the case by 10 a.m. on Monday. 

The court, however, never issued an opinion. Nessel and Benson issued a statement Monday evening reassuring voters that the state plans to protect voters’ safety at the polls. 

“Though I am disappointed that the Supreme Court hasn’t provided guidance in advance of Election Day, it does not change the fact that voter intimidation is still illegal in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement. “Those who attempt to deter or interfere with someone trying to exercise the fundamental right to vote will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” — Riley Beggin


Monday, Nov. 2

Benson: Expect misinformation, long wait for results

On the eve of the Tuesday’s general election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson warned that it could take up to 80 hours — through Friday evening — for all of the state’s absentee ballots to be counted. 

That estimate is based on the 40 hours it took the state to process 1.6 million absentee ballots in the August primary, approximately half as many as have already been submitted in the general election. 

However, many cities have doubled or tripled the number of high-speed tabulators they had on hand, and new election workers have been recruited to increase counting capacity, Benson said. 

While the delay is to be expected in this unprecedented election, Benson said, any delay is likely to be met with misinformation. 

“I fully expect our voters will be targeted with false information about their rights and the integrity of the voting process,” Benson said. “We cannot allow scare tactics and lies to deter any citizen from exercising their right to vote.”

Benson urged people to report false information to misinformation@michigan.gov, where it will be investigated and debunked. 

She also responded to reports that two poll challengers were removed by police from the TCF Center in Detroit, where the city’s absentee ballot counting board is pre-processing ballots for tabulation tomorrow. 

Voting rights advocates have raised concerns that some overeager poll challengers or watchers may intentionally cause delays in the system or break the rules that prevent them from speaking to or approaching voters.

“What you saw today is an example of our protocols working. If there’s any disruption at all — either at our polling places or absentee counting board — it will not be tolerated,” she said. — Riley Beggin


Kamala Harris to make Election Day stop in Detroit

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris will be traveling to Detroit and Southfield  for a “Get Out the Vote” initiative on Tuesday. The time and location of her stops are not publicly available. — Mansur Shaheen


Feds to monitor elections in 7 Michigan cities

The Department of Justice’s civil rights division is planning to monitor polling locations in 44 jurisdictions in 18 states on Tuesday. Michigan has seven communities that are to be monitored  for compliance with federal voting rights laws, more than any other state.

The communities to be monitored include Detroit, Eastpointe, Flint, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Jackson and Shelby Township.

Michigan a battleground state in the election, with both candidates making repeat visits in the past few weeks. President Donald Trump is close out his campaign in Grand Rapids on Monday night. 

In 2016, Department of Justice personnel were deployed to 67 jurisdictions, including three cities in Michigan. — Mansur Shaheen


Nearly 3 million absentee ballots cast ahead of Election Day 

Nearly 3 million Michigan voters have cast ballots in the November general election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Monday. 

That’s around 60 percent of the total expected turnout, which Benson has predicted will break the previous record of 5.08 million voters set in the 2008 presidential election.

Benson’s office said in a press release that the high number of early voters “will drastically reduce the potential for polling place crowding and lines, and help keep voters safe.” 

In many of Michigan’s largest cities, the number of absentee ballots received the day before Election Day dramatically outpaces the totals in the 2016 presidential election.

Absentee vote tallies are 154,436 in Detroit (compared to 45,942 in 2016); 52,968 in Grand Rapids (13,774 in 2016);  50,818 in Ann Arbor (12,311 in 2016) and 32,453 in Lansing (9,258 in 2016.)

The crush of absentee ballots follows a change in the state’s voting law in 2018, which allows absentee voting for any reason, and comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has many voters choosing to stay away from the polls.

Absentee ballots take more time to count than ballots cast in-person. Election officials expect final results for the state could take up to three days to tabulate. Riley Beggin

Sunday, Nov. 1

Trump stumps in Washington Township

President Donald Trump stuck to his favorite talking points Sunday during a final blitz before Tuesday’s election, praising growth in the economy and auto manufacturing, and hammering his opponent, Joe Biden, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for COVID-19 lockdowns.

Speaking on a cold, windy day at Total Sports Park in Washington Township, Trump rallied voters in Macomb County, a county that experts say the president needs to carry to win Michigan again. 

“Is there any place to have a better time than a Trump rally?” he asked the crowd, which broke into chants of “we love you” several times.

During Trump’s second visit in two days in southeast Michigan, he told supporters he saved the auto industry and no plants had opened in the state for “decades and decades” before he took office in 2016.

That’s an exaggerated claim he has made on multiple occasions. While it's been nearly 15 years since Michigan's last major plant opening — General Motors Corp.'s Lansing Delta Township plant — three plants have opened in the past 20 years. Under Trump, Fiat Chrylser, Ford and General Motors have announced major investments, including Chrysler's first plant in Detroit in several decades. 

Trump also claimed Biden would undo job growth and institute lockdowns across the nation, turning the nation “into a prison."

“They want to close down your factories, ship your jobs to China,” Trump said of his opponents.

Trump also pledged to make burning an American flag a crime punishable by a year in prison and get a woman astronaut on the moon

The president will return to Michigan Monday, with a 5 p.m. rally at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City and a 10:30 p.m. rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids on Monday. Mansur Shaheen

Saturday, Oct. 31

Voter fraud allegations under investigation

Michigan law enforcement agencies are investigating possible “irregularities” in voter registration forms submitted by mail and in-person in Muskegon this September and October, state police confirmed late Friday in a statement to Bridge Michigan.

With the presidential election just days away, Michigan State Police spokesperson Shanon Banner stressed the potentially fraudulent activity did not result in any voters receiving absentee ballots. 

“Any resulting registrations have been voided, and there is no expected impact on any election,” Banner told Bridge. 

Along with state police, the investigation includes Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office and the Muskegon Police Department, who initiated the investigation after Muskegon City Clerk Ann Meisch’s office alerted law enforcement, Banner said. 

Meisch told WOOD-TV8 the city started receiving “boxes of voter registration applications” this fall and said “several hundreds had… irregularities that we knew were not right,” prompting her to alert Muskegon police. 

Muskegon is a Democratic stronghold in a politically divided county. Republican President Donald Trump held a campaign rally at the Muskegon County Airport two weeks ago. 

“This investigation is ongoing,” Banner said. “No arrests have occurred.”


Friday, Oct. 30

Absentee vote tally at 2.6 million

More than 2.6 million Michiganders have already voted in the November general election, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. A total of 3.3 million people have requested absentee ballots. 

Many more voters are expected to turn out to vote in person on Election Day. Officials expect turnout to break the state record of 5.08 million voters in the 2008 presidential election. 

Voters who still have an absentee ballot should turn the voted ballot in in-person at their clerk’s office or at a ballot drop box, election officials say. Clerk’s offices must be open for at least eight hours this weekend. 

“Michigan citizens are making their voices heard, confident that our elections will be an accurate reflection of the will of the people,” Benson said in a statement. — Riley Beggin


Trump to make three Michigan stops in campaign homestretch

Republican President Donald Trump will make three separate stops in Michigan over the final few days before Nov. 3, and he will close out his 2020 presidential campaign in the Great Lakes State.

Trump will first hold a rally at 11 a.m. Sunday at Total Sport Park in Washington, Macomb County. 

The president will hold a rally a day later at 5 p.m. Monday at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, in Grand Traverse County. His final campaign stop of the election will be at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids at 10:30 p.m. 

Trump also ended his 2016 campaign with an event in Grand Rapids. — Mansur Shaheen


Barack Obama to join Biden for Michigan events in elections final weekend

President Barack Obama will join Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden for two events on Saturday,  a few days before the Nov. 3 election.

Obama and Biden will first host a drive-in event in Flint at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday. They will later host a drive-in event in Detroit at 5:30 p.m.

Additional details on the visits are not yet available. – Mansur Shaheen


Trump attacks Snyder after Fox News appearance

Former Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told Fox News he voted for Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, earning the ire of President Donald Trump Thursday night.

“I’m a proud Republican,” Snyder told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on “Your World.” “I’m an American first, and we shouldn’t let partisanship get in the way of good decision-making for our country and Joe Biden is a much better decision than Donald Trump.”

Snyder endorsed Biden for president in September. Trump is set to visit the state on Friday afternoon for a rally in Waterford Township, before returning again on Monday, a day before Nov. 3. He also held a rally in Lansing on Tuesday. – Mansur Shaheen

Snyder cited the president’s tax bill from 2017, tariffs he has imposed on goods from Canada, Mexico and other trading partners, and the government’s COVID-19 response as reasons for why he chose to vote against Trump.

“Failed RINO former Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan was a disaster with respect to the Flint Water CATASTROPHE, and a very bad Governor overall. He hurt so many people with his gross incompetence,” Trump responded to Snyder on Twitter Thursday evening.

Failed RINO former Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan was a disaster with respect to the Flint Water CATASTROPHE, and a very bad Governor overall. He hurt so many people with his gross incompetence. He reminds me of Sleepy Joe!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2020
 
 
Trump is set to visit the state on Friday afternoon for a rally in Waterford Township, before returning again on Monday, a day before Nov. 3. He also held a rally in Lansing on Tuesday. – Mansur Shaheen

Thursday, Oct. 29

Actor Jeff Daniels and author Don Winslow teamed for a short film released just before Election Day, backing Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden in his campaign against President Donald Trump.

“America Needs Michigan” is a 2-minute short film voiced over by the actor and Michigan native. A YouTube upload of the ad has received over 150,000 views in two days. 

“In Michigan we don’t pound out chests or blow out own horn, we just get the job done,” Daniels recites over a harrowing track while shots from across the state are shown.

“Michigan deserves a president who tells the truth...who cares about all of us...who believes in things like decency, honesty and respect,” Daniels says, before closing the ad by stating that he voted for Biden.

Michigan is projected to be a key state on Nov. 3, and both campaigns have made many visits to the state in the days leading up to the election. Mansur Shaheen

Editor’s note: Jeff Daniels teamed up with Don Winslow on a short film. A previous tracker item said that Jeff Bridges worked on the film.


Wednesday, Oct. 28

Trump in Michigan on Friday

President Donald Trump will be making another stop in Michigan on Friday in the final days leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

The president will be making a speech at a “Make America Great Again Victory Rally” at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township.

The rally comes just days after a visit from Trump in Lansing and is scheduled one day before an appearance in Michigan by his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. — Mansur Shaheen

Editor’s note: Jeff Daniels teamed up with Don Winslow on a short film. A previous tracker item said that Jeff Bridges worked on the film.


Tim Allen lends iconic voice to James ad

The iconic voice of Tim Allen will be heard on Michigan televisions again soon, in an ad supporting Republican Senate challenger John James. 

“Together” is a 30-second ad by James’ Senate campaign, voiced over by the star of “Home Improvement” and “Toy Story.” 

“A place where people respect each other, love each other, Michigan, that’s John James,” Allen reads.

The ad is an allusion to the “Pure Michigan” ad campaign to which Allen, a Michigan native, also lends his voice. Allen has previously lended his voice to similarly styled political ads, including one for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016.

James, a Farmington Hills businessman, is running against Democratic incumbent Gary Peters for Michigan’s Senate seat. Mansur Shaheen


Eric, Tiffany Trump to make final election push in Michigan

Two of President Donald Trump’s children will be making stops in Michigan on Thursday as they stump for their Republican father with days to go until the Nov. 3 election.

Tiffany Trump will host a “Breakfast With Tiffany” event at 9 a.m. in Birmingham.

Eric Trump will host two events. First, there’s a “Make America Great Again” event at Hope Sports Complex in Lansing at 2:30 p.m. Then, he will host an “Evangelicals for Trump” event at ResLife Church in Grandville in Kent County at 6 p.m. Mansur Shaheen


Tuesday, Oct. 27

Joe Biden to visit Michigan on Saturday

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will travel to Michigan on Saturday, for a final push before the Nov. 3 election. His wife, Jill, also plans to visit the state on Thursday. The details of each visit have yet to be announced.

The visits follow a blitz from President Donald Trump and his surrogates. Trump is in Lansing on Tuesday, while Vice President Mike Pence will rally in Flint on Wednesday. — Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Oct. 26

Pence plans to visit Flint on Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Michigan on Wednesday, making a final push to stump for Donald Trump before the Nov. 3 election.

Pence plans a rally in Flint at 7 p.m. at Bishop International Airport. Trump plans to be in Lansing at 2 p.m. Tuesday for a rally at Capital Region International Airport.  — Mansur Shaheen


Sunday, Oct. 25

Harris to visit Detroit Sunday; Trump in Lansing on Tuesday

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will spend her Sunday in Detroit and Oakland County, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign announced late Saturday.

Harris is set to participate in a drive-in church service in Detroit at 10:35 a.m., followed by afternoon events in Detroit and Troy, and a “vote now” drive-in rally in Pontiac at 4:30 p.m.

The visit is the latest in a flurry of campaign activity in Michigan, which remains a key battleground with Election Day a little more than one week away.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to campaign in Lansing on Tuesday. And his son, Donald Trump Jr., will rally Monday evening at the Michigan Stars Sports Center in Macomb County’s Washington Township. Jonathan Oosting


Friday, Oct. 23

Trump in Lansing on Tuesday

President Donald Trump is heading to Michigan seven days ahead of the Nov. 3 election, planning a stop in Lansing on Tuesday.

Trump’s campaign on Friday announced he plans a rally at 2 p.m. at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing. The Republican’s running mate, Mike Pence, and two of his children, Ivanka and Eric, visited the state earlier this week. Mansur Shaheen


Biden launches Michigan bus tour

With 10 days before the election, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is making a final push in Michigan and will join Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for a four-day bus tour starting Friday.

The tour starts Friday in Taylor, a Downriver suburb of Detroit, with a rally featuring Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. Whitmer, a national co-chair of Biden’s campaign, will make periodic stops during the so-called Soul of the Nation tour. Not all details have been made public, but the tour will include car rallies and voter mobilization events.

Fighting for the soul of our nation with Biden-level aviator energy today. #RidingWithBiden pic.twitter.com/FCpMfZnM3y

— Garlin Gilchrist (@garlin) October 23, 2020

Pop singer Lizzo, a Detroit native, will headline two events for the Biden campaign as well on Friday, at 3 p.m. in Detroit then at 5:30 p.m. in Harper Woods.

Doug Emhoff, husband of vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, will make three stops in Michigan on Friday. He will travel to Muskegon County, Ottawa County and Detroit. — Mansur Shaheen


Thursday, Oct. 22

Trump takes more jabs at Whitmer in Thursday debate with Biden

President Donald Trump took jabs at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer again Thursday night as he made exaggerated claims about her COVID-19 response in his second televised debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. 

“Take a look at what’s happening with your friend in Michigan, where her husband’s the only one allowed to do anything,” Trump said to Biden. “It’s like a prison. Now it was just ruled unconstitutional.”

Trump’s prison comparison is hyperbole, of course.  Whitmer lifted Michigan’s stay-at-home order on June 1 and has since allowed all businesses to reopen, albeit with some capacity limitations and new workplace safety rules. 

While Whitmer’s family is subject to the same regulations as other Michiganders, Trump has repeatedly panned the governor over an incident in late May, when her husband name-checked her in phone call with a northern Michigan marina as he asked to jump to the front of the line and get his boat in the water. 

The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 deemed unconstitutional an emergency authority law Whitmer had used to issue COVID-19 orders, but her administration has used separate public health and workplace safety orders to continue most regulations. Jonathan Oosting


Michigan early voting returns heaviest so far in Democratic counties

In a year of record turnout, absentee voting is strongest in counties where Hillary Clinton did well in 2016, according to a Bridge analysis of state records. It’s unclear if the trend will hold through Nov. 3, but it’s bad news so far for President Donald Trump and Republicans. 

Republicans, who in the past have employed a robust absentee voting program to get supporters to cast ballots, aren’t taking advantage of no-reason absentee voting like their Democratic peers. Experts say that’s a result of the president publicly deriding the practice.


Trump: 'My Justice Department helped Whitmer'

President Donald Trump denied accusations he endangered Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with his rhetoric over recent months during an interview with “60 Minutes” set to air Sunday.

“I never said lock up the governor of Michigan, I would never say that,” Trump told Lesley Stahl.

The president held a rally in Muskegon this weekend, where the crowd erupted into “lock her up” chants when he mentioned Whitmer. Trump responded “lock ‘em all up.”. 

Whitmer, who is a national co-chair of Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign, has blamed Trump for “fomenting anger” that fueled a kidnapping plot against her. Fourteen men face charges of conspiring to kidnap the governor and storm the state Capitol to start a civil war. 

Trump told “60 Minutes” that “it was our Justice department that’s the one that’s helping her,” he said, adding “my Justice Department, if you can call it that.”

Trump and Whitmer have sparred for much of the year over the coronavirus pandemic. He’s accused Whitmer of wanting “to be a dictator” and once tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” about her lockdown orders.

Testimony this month about the kidnapping case, though, revealed the plot against Whitmer was under way before many of the president’s criticisms of her.

Trump walked out of the “60 Minutes” interview after a series of questions about his assertions that the FBI should investigate Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The interview will air 7:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS. A version of it is posted on Trump's Facebook page. — Mansur Shaheen


Mail delays increase in Detroit area

Mail delays have increased in the Detroit area for weeks, a congressional investigation spearheaded by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters concluded in a report published Tuesday

About 71 percent of mail was delivered on time in the Detroit region the week of Oct. 3, the most recent time period available — the worst on-time delivery rate of any district in the nation. Nationally, the Postal Service made more than 86 percent of deliveries on time.

Four other districts — those covering Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Mississippi; Alabama and Philadelphia — were also below 80 percent.

On-time delivery means that the Postal Service delivered First Class mail within the one-to-five-day standard range as defined by USPS

Overall, on-time deliveries in the Detroit area dropped by more than 12 percent since the start of September. 

In Michigan, state election officials have advised voters who choose to vote by mail to send their ballots back to their local clerk by Oct. 19 to allow for enough time for the ballot to be received.  Read the full story > 


Wednesday, Oct. 20

Pence, Trump Jr. to make Michigan stop

Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. will visit Michigan on Thursday, with the vice president planning a rally at 12:30 pm. at Barnstormers in Waterford Township in Oakland County, while the president’s son is set to speak at 4:30 p.m. at Houghton County Memorial Airport in Calumet in the Upper Peninsula.

In recent days, other children of the president, Ivanka and Eric Trump, also hosted events in Michigan in recent days. Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Oct. 19

Buttigieig to stump for Democrats in Michigan

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, plans to be in Michigan on Monday to stump for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and two Democratic U.S. House candidates.

Buttigieg plans an appearance at 12:35 p.m. in Grand Rapids with his husband, Chasten Glezman, and Hillary Scholten, a candidate for  Michigan’s 3rd congressional district. He also plans a 3:10 pm. appearance with U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, in Stockbridge in Ingham County, and a 5:40 p.m. voter mobilization event in Kalamazoo. – Mansur Shaheen


Biden, Trump families plan blitzes in Michigan ahead of election

With two weeks left before the Nov. 3 election, family members of Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic hopeful Joe Biden plan to visit Michigan this week.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, plans to be in Alto in west Michigan at 4 p.m. Monday, while her brother Eric plans events Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Schlegel Sand & Gravel in Lansing and Darling Farms in Willis in Washtenaw County at 6:30 p.m. 

On Tuesday, Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic nominee, plans stops in Detroit at 2:30 p.m., Madison Heights at 3:35 p.m., Dearborn at 4:30 pm., and a car rally in Saginaw at 6:15 p.m. Mansur Shaheen


Friday, Oct. 16

Physicians urge Trump to cancel Saturday rally

Amid a surge in COVID cases in Michigan, a group of doctors is calling on President Trump to cancel a Saturday rally in Muskegon.

“This is a time when everything is getting polarized,” Dr. Susan Fabrick, a long-time family physician in Muskegon County told Bridge Michigan Friday.  “But in this case, the science is what we’re looking at. It’s not politics. It’s a mass gathering (with the potential) of being a super spread event.”

Fabrick is a member of the Committee to Protect Medicare, a national, pro-health reform group whose executive director also is a West Michigan emergency physician. More than 2,000 COVID cases were reported in Michigan on Friday, and Muskegon has seen an increase in recent weeks, too. The county now reports an average of 17 cases a day, compared to an average of 10 cases a day the previous week.

Fabrick said those who are attending the rally should wear masks, face shields and gloves and socially-distance by at least six feet — something she doubts is possible.

Rally attendees “will go home to their families, kiss their children, visit their grandpa. Maybe they are grandpas,” she said, calling the rally “disheartening.” — Robin Erb


Thursday, Oct. 15

Trump takes jab at Whitmer husband, mischaracterizes lockdown

President Donald Trump made another jab at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a town hall forum on Thursday, falsely characterized her coronavirus rules and repeated a claim about auto investment in the state that was more accurate.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, appearing in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia at the same time, did not directly mention Michigan. 

Here are Trump’s claims and the facts behind them: 

The claim: Nobody can do anything in Michigan

“We won a big case in Michigan because that governor has a lockdown where nobody but her husband can do anything. He can go boating and do whatever he wants but no one else can,” Trump said.

The facts

Trump made an apparent reference to a controversy in late May, when it was reported Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory, tried to use his relationship to get his boat in the water before Memorial Day weekend, shortly after she relaxed restrictions in northern Michigan.

But Trump’s assertion is an obvious exaggeration and off the mark.

Restaurants, bars and retail stores were already set to open in northern Michigan when the controversy arose. Over the next several months, Whitmer continued to relax restrictions statewide, reopening restaurants, gyms, schools for in-person learning, camps and childcare centers, and most major businesses with safety precautions. 

Trump was referring to a recent state Supreme Court decision that found unconstitutional a 1945 Whitmer had relied on to issue executive orders without consent from lawmakers. The court found Whitmer violated separation of powers, not that she “had a lockdown where nobody … can do anything.”

The claim: Taxes are luring car companies to Michigan

"Car companies are coming into Michigan” and other states “because we reduced the taxes,” Trump said. “Our corporate taxes were the highest in the world but now they're among the lowest."

The facts 

Car companies are investing in Michigan under Trump, including huge investments from FiatChrysler ($4.5 billion for a new Detroit plant and nearby expansions), Ford Motor Co. ($740 million in Detroit with plans to bring 5,000 jobs), electric car manufacturer Waymo (new plant near Detroit) and Navya, a French driverless car manufacturer building a plant in Saline.

Reasons for the investments are varied. Navya and Wayo CEOs told the Automotive News and Free Press respectively they chose the area in part because there are many skilled auto workers in the area. 

But it is true the corporate tax rates fell under Trump, from 35 percent to 21 percent in 2018, which is lower than the global average of 23.8 percent. Some economists say that change can spur economic growth, but not dramatically because of former loopholes companies already used to avoid high taxes. — Riley Beggin

Biden to appear in Michigan

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will visit Michigan on Friday, one day before President Donald Trump has an event planned in Muskegon. 

According to his campaign, Biden will speak about health care at 2:30 p.m. in Southfield and will attend a get-out-the-vote event in Detroit at 6:20 p.m. Specific locations of the events weren’t disclosed.

It will be Biden’s third visit to Michigan in the last several weeks. He visited Warren and Detroit in early September and Grand Rapids in early October. 

The visit comes as Trump and his surrogates have stormed the state, including a visit from Eric Trump in Oakland County on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, and Lara Trump in Freeland and Hanover on Thursday. 

Biden has maintained a steady lead over Trump in Michigan that has been widening in recent weeks, according to polling averages.  

Biden’s events will be closed to most of the public and most media. Those interested in watching can see the events on Biden’s campaign website. — Riley Beggin


Trump on Gov. Whitmer: She wants to be a dictator

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the subject of Donald Trump’s ire once again, as the president claimed Thursday morning she “wants to be a dictator.” 

“Open up the states,” the president said on Fox Business. “Michigan, she has to open up. She wants to be a dictator in Michigan. And the people can’t stand her, and they wanna get back to work.”

"They ought to open up the states," says @realDonaldTrump - regarding many #shutdown #Democrat-run states. "They'll open them up on November 4th. They're only doing it for #politics." #VarneyCo pic.twitter.com/C1EhVMeHAs

— Varney & Co. (@Varneyco) October 15, 2020

Trump never referred to Whitmer directly by name, but said “Michigan we won,” in reference to the 4-3 state Supreme Court ruling this month that stripped the governor of her executive powers to lockdown the state due to COVID-19.

Whitmer is national co-chair of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s national campaign. She has clashed all year with Trump, who infamously called her “the woman from Michigan” and “Half Whitmer” and tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in reference to her lockdown orders. — Mansur Shaheen


Poll: Peters up 6 points over James

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, has extended his lead over Republican challenger John James over the past month according to a EPIC-MRA poll for the Detroit Free Press

Peters leads 45 percent to 39 percent in the poll of 600 likely voters, extending the gap between the two candidates to 6 percentage points, clearing the 4 point margin of error.

The Democratic incumbent held a 4 percentage point lead in last month’s poll by EPIC-MRAl.

It follows a Monday poll by Siena College and the New York Times – which has an A+ pollster rating from the website 538 — that had Peters with a 1 percentage point lead. — Mansur Shaheen


Tuesday, Oct. 14

Huizenga tests positive for COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga said Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to a planned appearance in Grand Rapids with Vice President Mike Pence. 

The Zeeland Republican announced results from what he called a rapid test while Pence spoke in west Michigan. Huizenga said he was tested offsite, per event protocol, and is awaiting results of a separate diagnostic test that is typically more accurate. 

In the meantime, “I am self isolating until I have confirmed results,” the congressman wrote on Twitter. 

Earlier today, I was expected to appear with the Vice President. While taking part in offsite testing protocols, I took a rapid test that came back positive for COVID-19. I am awaiting the results of a PCR test and I am self isolating until I have confirmed results.

— Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 14, 2020
 

Pence spoke at an auto supply company near Grand Rapids, where he defended GOP President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and touted the country’s pre-coronavirus economy, among other things. 

Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, is back “out on the campaign trail” and doing well, Pence said. The president, who is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in recent Michigan polls, is scheduled to speak at a Muskegon rally on Saturday.

“We are opening up America, and we are opening up American schools,” Pence said. 

Watch his full speech below via WOOD-TV 8. — Jonathan Oosting

Benson says 1 million-plus have already voted

More than 1 million Michiganders already have cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday. A record 2.8 million voters have requested absentee ballots for the election.

“We are on track to see more Michiganders vote this fall than ever before.” Benson wrote on Twitter.

Excited to announce that as of today, with 3 weeks to go until the polls close ...

Over *1 million* Michigan citizens have already voted!

With over 2.8 million voters already requesting to vote early we are on track to see more Michiganders vote this fall than ever before.

— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) October 14, 2020

The Michigan State Department has recruited more than 30,000 election workers for the election and provided additional funds for machines to help with counting, Benson said. The Legislature also recently passed a bill allowing local clerks to open ballots a day early. 

"We're doing everything we can to support clerks to be able to count those ballots efficiently," Secretary of State spokesperson Jake Rollow told reporters Tuesday. — Mansur Shaheen


Trump to visit Michigan on Saturday

Donald Trump plans to visit Michigan on Saturday, the fourth event in the state this week from the Republican’s re-election campaign. Two senior advisers, Lara Trump and Katrina Pierson, will be stopping in the state as well.

The president plans to make a speech supporting law enforcement at 5 p.m. at Muskegon County Airport. 

His daughter in-law Lara Trump and adviser Katrina Pierson, meanwhile, plan an event at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Apple Mountain Resort in Freeland in Saginaw County. His son Eric appeared in Novi on Tuesday. 

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. — Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Oct. 12

Whitmer: No guarantee results will come on election night

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reiterated this weekend that the state is doing everything it can to make sure voting in the Nov. 3 election goes as smoothly as possible.

“Here's what I can say, we are prepared,” Whitmer said during an appearance on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We are prepared to make sure that this election goes smoothly. We're going to keep people safe as they go to the polls.”

A record 2.7 million voters have already requested absentee ballots. Whitmer, who serves as national co-chair for the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said she is working with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to handle the challenge ahead.

The volume of absentee ballots may make tallying the results tough, though, and there is a chance results will not be available for the state of Michigan until weeks after Election Day.

“Michigan will be able to announce results, but we are not going to have artificial deadlines set by people with political agendas. We're going to get this right,” Whitmer said.

Despite recent changes to Michigan law allowing for election clerks to open ballots a day early, the process of counting the millions of mail-in votes will be tough. Alexandra Eaton and Kassie Bracken of The New York Times spoke to clerks around the state, showing the process of the ballots being counted on Nov. 3, and highlighting some of the shortages of equipment and funding the state has been given by the federal government.

“I’m confident a delay in results does not mean anything is going wrong,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum told the Times.

Michigan voters are allowed to request absentee ballots at any time before the 5 p.m. deadline on Oct. 30. They are also allowed to vote, in person, at their local election clerk’s office every day until Election Day. — Mansur Shaheen


Biden in Toledo on Monday; Pence to stop in Grand Rapids Wednesday

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden plans to be in Toledo on Monday afternoon, speaking about the economy to UAW Local 14 members, while Vice President Mike Pence and Eric Trump, son of the president, will appear in Michigan this week to stump for Republican Donald Trump.

Eric Trump's rally is set for noon Tuesday at Huron Valley Guns in New Hudson, while Pence will speak in Grand Rapids at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Mansur Shaheen


Wednesday, Oct. 7

Benson refers GOP complaint to attorney general

Hours after the Michigan Republican Party released videos suggesting a Lansing ballot drop box was not secure, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson referred their claims to Attorney General Dana Nessel “for investigation as election misinformation,” the office said in a  news release. 

Early Wednesday morning, the state GOP released an email with two videos, claiming they show “an unlocked ballot drop box… with an envelope inside for the taking” and the same drop box two weeks later with an election worker struggling to close it. 

The release says Trump has been raising concerns about “the lack of security in our election system” and that the videos are “confirming President Trump’s claims.”

Benson’s office sent out a press release later that morning saying that the first video was shot before ballots were sent out to voters and the envelope in the video “is clearly not a ballot envelope,” which carries specific markings and colors to indicate it is official election mail. 

“By sharing blatantly false statements in the press release, they are irresponsibly spreading misinformation likely intended to suppress voting among Michigan citizens,” the statement read. “We have referred this matter to the Attorney General for investigation as election misinformation.” 

The Lansing City Clerk’s office also sent out a news release saying that the video was filmed on Sept. 25, the day that the drop box was installed, and that the envelope in the video was not a ballot. The drop box was secured later that day, “which was before ballots hit most voter mailboxes the following day,” the release stated. 

“Drop boxes are a safe and secure way to vote; we have security cameras on all of the ones we have installed this year,” Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said in the statement. Riley Beggin


Ted Cruz to host fundraiser for John James

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is set to hold a virtual fundraiser for Republican Senate challenger John James on Thursday, per a copy of the invitation obtained by Bridge Michigan.

The event is noon Thursday, with tickets costing $1,000 per political action committee and $500 per person. 

“This race in MICHIGAN is critical for the country — this is a key pick up seat for Republicans in the Senate,” the invitation states.

James, a Farmington Hills businessman, faces incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, in the November election. Recent polls show Peters leading by 5 to 7 points. — Mansur Shaheen


Tuesday, Oct. 4

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has extended his lead in Michigan over President Donald Trump, according to a poll released late Monday by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV

Biden leads the Republican president 48 percent to 39 percent, according to the survey of 600 likely voters following the first presidential debate on Sept. 29. The poll, conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, has a 4 percentage point margin of error. 

The same poll had Biden leading by 5 percentage points in early September. The surge is coming largely from older voters, according to WDIV. Voters 65 and older in Michigan favor Biden 59 percent to 29 percent over Trump

Trump carried Michigan less than 11,000 votes in the 2016 presidential election, and his victory in the state was a decisive factor in his victory. — Mansur Shaheen


Monday, Oct. 5

Record number of absentee vote ballot requests

A record 2.7 million Michigan voters have requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told reporters on Monday.

“That's an extraordinary number,” Benson said, adding that 380,000 ballots have since been returned.

A previous record was set earlier this year when 1.6 million Michiganders requested ballots for August’s primary election.

The deadline for absentee ballot requests is 5 p.m. Oct. 30. — Mansur Shaheen


Bernie Sanders to stump for Biden in Michigan

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to make stops in Michigan on Monday in support of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 

Sanders plans a speech in Ann Arbor at 1:30 p.m. and a 5 p.m. car rally in Macomb County.  — Mansur Shaheen


Saturday, Oct. 3

Peters tests negative, enters quarantine

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters has tested negative for COVID-19, per his Twitter account, but says he’ll self-quarantine until Oct. 14 out of “out of an abundance of caution”.

Peters was potentially exposed to the virus on Wednesday when he sat near Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson during a Homeland Security & Govt. Affairs Committee meeting. Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday morning.

Three Republican U.S. senators have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday afternoon, alongside President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Some have speculated Republicans got the virus last Saturday at a White House celebration of the nomination of  Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Peters is up for reelection Nov. 3 against Farmington Hills businessman and Republican challenger John James. — Mansur Shaheen


Friday, Oct. 2

Trump tests positive for COVID

President Donald Trump said early Friday morning that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19, a development that could jeopardize the health of the nation’s top official in the midst of a combative re-election campaign. 

The news comes as Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Michigan on Friday for a speech and voter mobilization event in Grand Rapids. Trump did not have any immediate plans to campaign in Michigan and last visited the state Sept. 10.

The president announced his diagnosis on Twitter at 12:54 a.m., hours after confirming that a top aide, Hope Hicks, had also tested positive for the virus.

Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”

While it's not immediately clear if either have significant symptoms, Melania Trump said she and the president are "feeling good." 

"The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence," Trump's physician, Sean Conley, said in a publicly released letter. "Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering."

As of early Friday morning, Biden had not yet commented on the news. — Jonathan Oosting


Thursday, Oct. 1

Biden campaign to begin door-knocking in Michigan

Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is poised to begin knocking voter doors in Michigan and other battleground states as soon as this weekend, abandoning the all-remote strategy it had employed throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Associated Press, citing a briefing by the campaign, reports Biden will “dispatch several hundred newly trained volunteers to engage voters across Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.”

The effort will focus on voters who “are considered difficult to reach by phone,” according to the report. Volunteers will be provided with personal protection equipment and given temperature checks. The campaign will also try to text message voters to let them know a knock is coming.

President Donald Trump’s campaign, in a coordinated effort with the state and national Republican parties, has been knocking on Michigan doors since June.

Republicans have claimed the masked-up canvassing gave them a distinct advantage. While Michigan Democrats argued voters appreciated their remote strategy given COVID-19, some party activists have  questioned the reliance on phone banking and text messaging. 

"Knocking on doors is the most potent effort that you can make as a campaign because people remember it," Steve Mitchell, a veteran GOP pollster, told Bridge in August. 

"If you don't want to answer the door because you're concerned about COVID, you just don't answer the door. You still recognize the fact somebody was there and left a brochure." — Jonathan Oosting


GOP commits $9M to John James ads

The Senate Leadership Fund announced Thursday morning it is placing a new $9 million ad buy in the state in support of Republican John James in his race against Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

The television and radio ads purchased will begin appearing on broadcasts starting Saturday.

“The only thing Gary Peters has accomplished over his years in Washington is to keep Michigan’s U.S. Senate seat warm for his successor. That person is going to be John James,” Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law said in a statement.

The Senate Leadership Fund is a super PAC with the goal to “to protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority.”

SLF’s ad buy comes a few weeks after Peters received an influx of cash from a “Get Mitch of Die Trying” fundraiser put together by Vote Save America. Mansur Shaheen


Wednesday, Sept. 30

Group files FEC complaint against John James

John James’ campaign for Senate is the target of another complaint to the Federal Elections Commission, this time from the End Citizens United political action committee.

Per the complaint obtained by Bridge Michigan , the group alleges James broke campaign finance laws during his 2018 campaign against U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow when he used money from his corporate coffers to fund a super PAC ad to benefit his own campaign.

James now faces Sen. Gary Peters.

“In the final days of his campaign it appears that he had the company where he was CEO, Renaissance Global Logistics, contribute $10,000 to the Super PAC supporting his  candidacy for a last-minute advertising buy, during the very short window just before the  election when the transaction would not be disclosed until after people had voted,” the complaint reads.

This is the fourth FEC complaint filed against the James campaign in 2020. In late August, Michigan Democrats filed a complaint alleging that James had coordinated with a dark-money group with ties to Mitch McConnell. Michigan Democrats filed a complaint against James in January, and then once again in March, regarding his alleged illegal coordination with the dark money group Better Future Michigan.

“It appears that John James broke the law and hoped no one would catch him. In light of this new information, the FEC should immediately investigate John James and hold him accountable,” Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, said in a statement.

James campaign spokesperson Abby Walls told Bridge the complaint is a “laughable accusation regarding 2018 activity leveled in an attempt to save a failing U.S. senator’s campaign.”

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative nonprofit,  filed an FEC complaint against Peters in December 2019, alleging the senator had posted talking points on his website in order to instruct outside organizations on what issues to run ads on. The Michigan GOP also made the similar allegations against Peters in early September.

End Citizens United is a PAC that was formed in 2015 with the goal to reverse a Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010 that allows corporations and other private businesses First Amendment rights to free speech, allowing them to donate to and support political campaigns. — Mansur Shaheen


Biden to campaign Friday in Grand Rapids

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is returning to Michigan on Friday for a campaign event in Grand Rapids. 

Biden will “discuss building back the economy better for working families,” according to his campaign, which offered no additional information but said it will announce more details this week.

The west Michigan stop will be Biden’s second visit to the state since securing the Democratic nomination. He campaigned in Macomb County on Sept. 8 and also made stops that day in and around Detroit. 

Grand Rapids is an increasingly Democratic pocket in Kent County, a former Republican stronghold. 

Republican President Donald Trump won Kent County by 3 percentage points in 2016, but Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer carried it by 4 percentage points in 2018. — Jonathan Oosting


​Judge allows GOP to intervene in ballot deadline case

A Michigan Court of Claims judge allowed the state’s GOP-led Legislature to intervene in a case that contests the constitutionality of state laws regarding absentee ballot deadlines, allowing them to appeal her decision that would give voters more time to get their mail-in ballots to the clerk. 

In a ruling from Judge Cynthia Stephens on Wednesday, she affirmed her prior decision to allow mail-in ballots that reach clerks’ offices up to two weeks after the election to count in the November election if they’re postmarked by Nov. 2 due to the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus, but allowed the state House and Senate to become parties to the case. 

That gives the Legislature the power to appeal her decision. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel — who are the named defendants in the case — did not plan to appeal Stephens’ ruling. 

If the Legislature’s appeal is successful, the ballot deadline extension could be reversed. Under existing Michigan law, ballots must be received by the clerk before polls close on Election Day in order to count. Riley Beggin



Tuesday, Sept. 29

Election officials across Michigan have received 2.5 million requests for absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 general election, the Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday morning. 

That’s an increase of around 150,000 requests over last week and tops the previous statewide record of around 2 million ballots requested in the August primary election. 

Clerks have issued just over 2 million, and more than 28,000 of those have been returned to local clerks in the five days since early voting began. 

A record-breaking 1.6 million people voted by mail in the August primary, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson estimates two to three times as many may do so this fall. That’s in part because of the coronavirus pandemic and because of a constitutional amendment put in place in 2018 that allows any qualified voter to vote absentee. In the past, voters needed a specific reason, such as being out of town on Election Day. Riley Beggin


Trump, Biden debate on Tuesday

Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will square off Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first of three debates ahead of the Nov. 3 election. 

Bridge will watch the debate for any Michigan connections, which could include the future of the auto industry, manufacturing jobs, security of mail-in voting and the state-level impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News last week announced a preliminary set of topics for the debate, which will start at 9 p.m and run 90 minutes without commercial interruption online and on television stations across the country:

  • The Trump and Biden records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The economy
  • Race and violence in our cities
  • The integrity of the election

Those topics are subject to change based on news developments, so it's possible Wallace could ask Trump about his "chronic losses and years of tax avoidance" reported Sunday by The New York Times.

The first debate comes as Michigan voters began to receive absentee ballots, which is expected to be a popular voting option this year given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a new state law that removed the requirement for an excuse to vote absentee.

The Ohio debate is hosted by Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic, which is also serving as Health Security Advisor additional presidential debates on Oct. 15 in Florida and Oct. 22 in Tennessee, along with a vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 in Utah. — Jonathan Oosting


Monday, Sept. 28

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters’ re-election campaign getting an outside assist

Organizers of a “Get Mitch or Die Trying” fundraising effort – named for Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and put together by the liberal group Vote Save America – say they’ve raised $26 million and counting for Democratic Senate candidates after an influx of donations following Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18.

Fourteen campaigns will receive an equal share of all of the money raised through the fund, according to organizers. That includes Peters’, which as of Monday was in line for more than $1.8 million of the contributions. 

“We include races based on whether resources are needed to make a difference in the outcome of the race,” the group said online. 

Donations to the fund spiked after Ginsburg’s death, according to Tommy Vietor, who was a spokesperson for former President Barack Obama and now co-hosts the Pod Save America podcast.

Here's a handy graph of donations to the @crookedmedia Get Mitch fund since its inception. See if you can spot the moment when the news of RBG's death broke. https://t.co/Wrci2vZ6MK pic.twitter.com/t96lvnJuBC

— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) September 19, 2020

Peters is facing a strong challenge from Farmington Hills businessman John James. A race where Peters once led his Republican opponent by double digits has now narrowed to only a few percentage points, according to data from Real Clear Politics.

Democrats are rallying against McConnell after the majority leader announced he plans to hold confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee in an election year, which he refused to do for an Obama nominee in 2016. 

Trump nominated circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court vacancy on Saturday, as Republicans plan to move forward with the nomination in the coming weeks. — Mansur Shaheen


John James breaks silence, supports Amy Coney Barrett

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James offered his support for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett over the weekend, making his position on the vacancy clear after a week of pressure from Democrats. “Partisanship should take a backseat to the Constitution,” James said in a statement on Twitter. Amy Coney Barrett is an accomplished and well-respected legal mind with an objectively brilliant career. I wish her a respectful and dignified hearing.”

Partisanship should take a backseat to the Constitution. Amy Coney Barrett is an accomplished and well-respected legal mind with an objectively brilliant career. I wish her a respectful and dignified hearing.

— John James (@JohnJamesMI) September 26, 2020

Michigan Democrats had urged the Farmington Hills businessman to clarify whether he thinks President Donald Trump and the Republican-led U.S. Senate should fill a seat opened by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death weeks before the presidential election. 

In 2016, a similar situation arose in the final year of the Barack Obama administration, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the president’s nominee, citing the upcoming election. McConnell plans to fill the seat this time, though, and Trump nominated Coney Barrett to the seat on Saturday.

“James hasn’t shown any independence from Trump – who he supports '2000%' - or McConnell,” Michigan Democratic party spokesperson Elena Kuhn said in a statement Saturday.

James’ opponent in his race, incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, released a statement last week calling for Supreme Court confirmations to be halted until after the election in November. — Mansur Shaheen


Friday, Sept. 25

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.

Attention MICHIGAN! 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: https://t.co/zucV2H92tV https://t.co/APgsuVYP14

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2020

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 Democrat Trump Hater Secretary of State of Michigan, purposely misprinted Ballots for the Military, putting the wrong names on the Ballot, and actually listing a member of another party as a replacement for Vice President @Mike_Pence. Everybody is totally confused by their...

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2020

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.

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. Voters who use the incorrect ballots instead of corrected ballots will still have their vote counted. 2/2

— Michigan Department of State (@MichSoS) September 16, 2020

“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.

First for me: Trump campaign tracked me down from pics i tweeted and escorted me out.

— Kathy Gray (@michpoligal) September 10, 2020

"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.”

Crammed in crowd in the rain for trump rally in michigan. Not many masks pic.twitter.com/5DZ6JBVNK8

— Kathy Gray (@michpoligal) September 10, 2020

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.

Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she sees the presidential race tightening.

"The big question people are gonna ask is 'are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?'"
she says. "…For the working class in this state... the answer is unequivocally 'no.'" pic.twitter.com/HwrkECsdxo

— CNN (@CNN) September 9, 2020

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

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