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Everything you need to know about the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3

Decision 2020

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When it was announced earlier this month that President Donald Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19, there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, he would finally start taking this pandemic seriously.

Fat chance.

Shortly after leaving Walter Reed Medical Center (where the president, a critic of "socialized medicine," got the finest medical treatment that government can provide), Trump was back on his bullshit — holding massive rallies across the country, where thousands of his supporters gathered, many not wearing masks, as if the whole thing never happened. As this week's issue went to press, Trump was expected to bring another one of his superspreader events to Michigan, with a rally scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 in Lansing — a week before the Tuesday, Nov. 3 general election — because apparently Trump doesn't care if Michiganders die.

On Friday, the U.S. reported its highly daily number of coronavirus cases, with at least 81,400 new cases reported. More than 222,000 Americans have died from the virus so far. In Michigan, more than 7,522 people have died from COVID-19.

If you're sick of Trump's plague, there's something you can do about it. Vote for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for the presidential ticket, and Gary Peters for Senate, on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

That's not all that's on the ballot. We also have an opportunity to move the Michigan Supreme Court to the left (by voting for Bridget Mary McCormack and Elizabeth Welch). There are also two state ballot proposals: Proposal 1 (a constitutional amendment that would allow money from oil and gas mining on state-owned lands to continue to be collected in state funds for land protection and creation and maintenance of parks) and Proposal 2 (which would require a search warrant in order to access a person's electronic data or electronic communications). In Detroit, voters can weigh in on Proposal N (which would allow the City of Detroit to sell $250 million in Neighborhood Improvement Bonds to preserve and renovate 8,000 homes and remove another 8,000 blighted homes). —Lee DeVito

What you need to vote

Simply show up in person to your local polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Bring a photo ID, such as a driver's license, identification card, or U.S. passport. If you don't have an ID, don't worry. You can fill out a brief affidavit stating that you're not in possession of a photo ID. Your vote will still be counted.

Don't forget your face mask, although it's not required at polling stations. It wouldn't hurt to bring some hand sanitizer or gloves, too. And don't forget social distancing. You'll likely be standing in a long line and encountering election workers. You may also want to bring a personal cheat sheet to remind yourself how you're voting. Even the most astute voters may not be familiar with all of the races, especially the judicial ones.

To find your polling place and preview your ballot, visit the Michigan Voter information Center at michigan.gov/vote. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 3. If you're in line to vote at 8 p.m., you have the right to cast your vote. If you're still in line at 8 p.m. and someone tries to send you home and deny you your right to vote, don't take no for an answer. Ask for a supervisor and an on-site voting advocate.

Anyone who is registered to vote may cast an absentee ballot in Michigan. Michigan expects a record number of absentee voters in November because of the coronavirus. More than 2 million voters have already requested an absentee ballot. —Steve Neavling

Voting deadlines

We've been trying our best to keep our readers up to date with the various deadlines for the election, considering all the chaos of 2020 — you know, a pandemic, civil unrest, Trump's suspiciously timed cuts to the U.S. Postal Service, yadda, yadda, yadda — but it turns out things are a bit more complicated than we thought they were.

See, in 2018 Michigan voters approved Proposal 3, which was supposed to make it easier to vote by allowing for no-reason absentee voting and other changes. And it does — but there are quite a few different scenarios to consider, and they all have various deadlines.

Reader Jordan Smellie would know. Smellie's an elections specialist for the City of Ferndale.

"Proposal 2018-3's changes to the constitution made things much better for voters by adding a lot of flexibility, but the downside of that is that it created a staggered series of nuanced deadlines that have proven very difficult for anyone to keep straight, and even more difficult to summarize gracefully," Smellie tells us via email.

Graciously, Smellie has provided us with a more detailed timeline, which we have edited lightly for style. We hope this helps you as much as it helped us.

Your deadlines for the upcoming general election are:

Friday, Oct. 30 (5 p.m.): If you're getting an absentee voter ballot for this election, your local Clerk can't mail it to you after this time. But you can still get an absentee ballot in person at your local city or township hall.

Saturday, Oct. 31 (2 p.m.): If you made a mistake on your ballot or changed your mind, your local Clerk can't mail you a replacement ballot after this time. You can still get a replacement ballot in person at your local city or township hall.

Sunday, Nov. 1: The last day you can pick up an absentee voter ballot and take it home with you.

Monday, Nov. 2: You can still get an absentee voter ballot in person, but you have to vote in your local city or township hall. Just like on Election Day, you can't take your ballot out of the room.

Monday, Nov. 2 (10 a.m.): If you've already turned in your ballot, you can't change your votes after this time. (If you're voting in your local Clerk's office today and you make a mistake, you can still receive a replacement ballot.)

Monday, Nov. 2 (4 p.m.): Your local Clerk can't issue absentee ballots to anyone for any reason after this time. (If you're already in the room at 4 p.m., you will be served by staff.)

Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. All absentee voter ballots must be signed and in the Clerk's possession by 8 p.m. in order to be counted.

To make sure your ballot arrives in time, you should not send it by mail. Instead, you should drop it off at your local Clerk or at a designated ballot drop-box. You can find the addresses for both, as well as the answers to any other questions you might have, at michigan.gov/vote. —Lee DeVito

Officials warn of potential violence

Michigan is among five states with the highest risk of right-wing militia violence during and after the election, according to an alarming new report from a nonprofit that tracks political violence.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) examined the activities of more than 80 militias across the country and concluded that Michigan is at a heightened risk, based on active militia training, anti-coronavirus lockdown rallies, and the presence of the Proud Boys, the far-right brawlers whom President Trump told to "stand back and stand by."

Michigan is home to several active militias, including Michigan Liberty Militia and the Michigan Home Guard.

"In light of this activity, tensions run high" in Michigan, the report states.

Battleground states such as Michigan also run a higher risk for violence. Trump won by just 0.2% in 2016, or some 10,000 votes.

The report highlights the arrests of 14 men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and attack the state Capitol and law enforcement, with the goal of instigating a civil war.

Among the warning signs for militant activity are protests against states' coronavirus lockdowns. In April, hundreds of armed protesters stormed the state Capitol in Lansing, and the rallies were among the first in the nation. An analysis of Black Lives Matter rallies found that counter-protesters, including the Proud Boys, were often involved, sometimes clashing with demonstrators. On Aug. 15, for example, the Proud Boys clashed with supporters of the anti-fascist Michigan People's Defense League and Black Lives Matter movement.

In May, armed militia members pledged to block police from forcing the closure of an Owosso barber shop that opened in defiance of Michigan's stay-at-home order.

Michigan officials are taking precautions. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recently banned guns near polling locations, and Attorney General Dana Nessel said state troopers will be sent to polling places in counties where officials fear local sheriffs may not enforce voter intimidation laws.

The report concludes that the "trends raise significant concerns for the security of the election period."

"It is yet unclear how many of these groups will react, no matter the vote's outcome," the report states. "Does a Trump loss lead to anger at the system and a backlash against what is deemed a stolen election? Does a Trump victory further empower groups that see him as a supporter, including through verbal encouragement ahead of the election? The answers to these questions are as numerous as they are uncomfortable."

Three gun-rights groups have filed a lawsuit against Benson to nullify her ban on openly carrying firearms at or near polling locations on Election Day.

Michigan Open Carry, Michigan Gun Owners, and Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners argue that Benson's directive violates state law and harms residents who want "to exercise both their 2nd Amendment right to self-protection and their fundamental right to vote."

"Nowhere within Michigan's Constitution is the office of the Secretary of State empowered to issue directives regarding the time, place or manner of elections," the suit said. "Indeed, those powers are specifically limited to the Legislature."

The groups are asking a judge to issue an injunction to suspend Benson's order before Election Day.

The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police also criticized the order, arguing that it does not give police "the authority to enforce the Secretary of State edict."

On Tuesday, after this week's issue went to press, a Michigan judge struck down Benson's gun ban at polling places. —Steve Neavling

When will we know the results?

Don't bother staying up late on Election Day, because officials in Michigan say it's going to likely take longer than usual to count all the ballots. Be patient!

That's because of the unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots local clerks are reporting in Michigan, as is the case in other states, due in part to the pandemic. In 2018, Michigan voters approved no-reason absentee ballot voting.

Several local officials held a Zoom meeting on Thursday to explain the situation. In Hamtramck, City Clerk August Gitschlag said the tiny two-square-mile city has already seen seven times the typical number of absentee ballots. Due to state law, however, they can't start counting the ballots until Election Day.

"We've been working round-the-clock to process absentee applications and send out ballots," Gitschlag said. "But we don't have the infrastructure to keep up with the overwhelming demand. We will count every vote, but being right is more important than being fast. I want to urge everyone to please be patient."

Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler said municipalities across the state are seeing similar spikes.

"We see every sign that this will be a high-turnout election all across Michigan," Wheeler said. "Secretary of State [Jocelyn] Benson and our team are working incredibly hard to make sure that every vote is counted fairly, efficiently, and accurately. We're going to get this right." —Lee DeVito

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