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Michigan appeals court blocks 14-day extension to accept absentee ballots

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The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday blocked a 14-day extension to accept and count absentee ballots that some other states, including nearby Minnesota, are allowing.

Unless the 2020 presidential election is a landslide for either President Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden, results will likely not be clear until days — or even weeks – after Nov. 3.

"Although … factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee," the court said in its decision. Hundreds of special absentee-ballot voting boxes have been set up across the state.

Initially, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens had ruled that ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can still be counted if they are received two weeks after Nov. 3, citing "unrefuted evidence" about mail delivery problems because of the coronavirus pandemic. She said more than 6,400 ballots arrived too late to be counted in the August primary.

MICHIGAN BANS OPEN CARRY OF GUNS AT POLLING PLACES

The appeals court, however, said the pandemic and any delivery woes “are not attributable to the state.”

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted record absentee ballots requests across the country; some states sent absentee ballots to all registered voters.

A person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mailbox in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Nearly 1.4 million Michiganders have submitted early ballots less than three weeks away from Election Day, or 28.7% of the state's total 2016 voter turnout, according to data from the United States Elections Project.

CASE AGAINST WHITMER KIDNAPPING SUSPECTS CAN MOVE TO TRIAL, JUDGE RULES

Some legislators feared that changes to the U.S. Postal Service put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy months before the election could potentially delay delivery service and, therefore, ballot-counting processes.

DeJoy assured voters in an Aug. 18 statement that the USPS "is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall." He has since postponed the changes.

“Happy to see this unanimous ruling to uphold the integrity of our elections process and reject judicial overreach,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tweeted.

The Michigan Democratic Party was disappointed.

“Voters should not be punished for delays in the U.S. Postal Service or for unexpected emergencies that could make it a challenge for them to get to the polls on Election Day,” the party said.

Courts in Wisconsin and Indiana have also blocked attempts to extend the number of days to accept and count ballots.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Markets

U.S. Consumer Sentiment Ticks Up, Still Below Pre-Virus Level

U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in early October to a seven-month high on an improved economic outlook, though confidence remained well below pre-pandemic levels.

The University of Michigan’s preliminary sentiment index for October advanced to 81.2 from a final September reading of 80.4, according to data released Friday. The median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for 80.5; the index was at 101 in February, near the highest since 2004.


With coronavirus infections accelerating again in the U.S. and congressional talks for further stimulus at a stalemate, the economic rebound and labor market face headwinds that will challenge whoever wins the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“Slowing employment growth, the resurgence in Covid-19 infections, and the absence of additional federal relief payments prompted consumers to become more concerned about the current economic conditions,” Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said in a statement. “Those concerns were largely offset by continued small gains in economic prospects for the year ahead.”

A separate government report earlier Friday showed retail sales rose in September by the most in three months.

The Michigan report also showed inflation expectations remained relatively tame. Consumers anticipated prices rising 2.7% in the year ahead, up from 2.6% in September, while longer-term inflation expectations fell to 2.4%, the lowest since March.

The preliminary survey covers responses received through Oct. 14. The final report for the month will be issued Oct. 30.

— With assistance by Jordan Yadoo

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World News

Michigan Governor Blames Trump for Fostering Hate Groups

Hours after federal authorities charged six people with attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, she held a press conference and blamed President Donald Trump for creating an environment that encourages such radical criminal behavior.

“Our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division,” Whitmer told reporters in Lansing, the state capital, on Thursday.

“Last week,” she said, “the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups. Stand back and stand by, he told them.”

Whitmer said that hate groups heard the president’s words “not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said six people had been charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer as part of a plan to overthrow the state’s government. The suspects allegedly staked out Whitmer’s vacation home and planned to set off explosives to distract police while they kidnapped the governor. The U.S. said it would also bring charges against seven other people connected to the Wolverine Watchmen militia for attempts to target law enforcement officers and start a civil war.

Trump “has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who spoke with Whitmer earlier in the day, complimented the FBI and police for handling the matter and criticized Trump. “The words of a president matter,” Biden said. “They can cause a nation to have the market rise or fall, go to war, make peace, but they can also breathe oxygen into those who are filled with hate and danger. And I just think it’s got to stop.”

Whitmer’s comments are the latest chapter in a running feud with Trump. She accused the president of being slow to deliver medical supplies in March when the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly in her state. Trump, in turn, criticized Whitmer for not swiftly reopening the Michigan economy.

Trump told Vice President Mike Pence, at a White House briefing in late March, “Don’t call the woman in Michigan.” That prompted her supporters to don t-shirts saying, “That Woman From Michigan.”

Whitmer said during the press conference that she never expected to have her life threatened as governor.

“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,” Whitmer said at the briefing.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a deep political divide in the state where Whitmer initiated some of the nation’s toughest mandates to stop the spread of the virus. That led to criticism from Trump and Republican leaders in the state. Marches against her orders were organized and an armed protest at the capitol led to the cancellation of a legislative session.

Whitmer’s measures were effective at slowing the spread of the virus. In early April, the state was seeing more than 2,000 new cases a day. The number has since dropped to fewer than 1,000 new cases on some days and less then 100 on others. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7% in August from more than 10% in June, close to the national rate of 8.4%.

Whitmer had been using emergency orders to enforce restrictions on schools, businesses and citizens to slow the spread of the virus, relying on a 1945 law granting the governor broad emergency powers. However, the state’s high court found that unconstitutional on Friday. That prompted Trump to call the decision a “BIG win” in a tweet on Wednesday.

@realDonaldTrump

We just got a BIG win for the people of Michigan. Open up your Churches and your Schools. Auto companies pouring in and expanding (thank you Mr. President!). Have fun!Young Americans for Liberty

@YALiberty.@GovWhitmer is very sad the Michigan Supreme Court took away her unconstitutional emergency powers.
She claims with a straight face that the state economy is at risk without her mandates preventing people from working.

3:06 PM · Oct 7, 2020

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Whitmer called for unity to get through the crisis during the press conference.

“We are not one another’s enemy. This virus is our enemy and this enemy is relentless,” Whitmer said. “It doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, young or old, rich or poor. It doesn’t care if we’re tired of it. It threatens us all.”

— With assistance by Jordan Fabian

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Links Kidnapping Plot To Trump’s Hate Rhetoric

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer drew a strong line between an alleged plot to kidnap her and the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, whose recent comments have been interpreted by right-wing militia groups as encouragement.

“Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Six men involved with a militia group called Wolverine Watchmen are facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and an additional seven people are facing state charges in connection with the alleged scheme. The men wanted to “storm” the state Capitol in Lansing with 200 men to take hostages including the governor, court documents say.

Whitmer said Thursday that the suspects aimed to “possibly kill” her.

Trump failed to speak out against hate groups during his first presidential debate with Democratic contender Joe Biden last Tuesday. Pressed to condemn the Proud Boys, a group of violent right-wing extremists, Trump replied: “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.” Members of the Proud Boys quickly turned the president’s words into a T-shirt and other merchandise. 

Trump also deflected criticism at the debate by claiming ― against the analysis of his own top law enforcement officials ― that the problem comes mainly “from the left wing, not the right wing.” The FBI warned as recently as two weeks ago that right-wing militia groups pose a “violent extremist threat,” particularly as the election approaches.

“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry — as a call to action,” Whitmer said.

She continued: “When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.” 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded to Whitmer in a statement claiming that Trump “has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate,” and that the Michigan governor was “sowing division.”

Trump has danced around hate groups that profess to support him throughout his presidency; it took him two days after the debate to say the words “I condemn all white supremacists,” which he eventually did on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program.

Whitmer had been attacked by the president at the start of the coronavirus crisis for issuing strict lockdown orders that are credited with preventing statewide outbreaks. In April, Trump reacted to news of Michigan lockdowns by tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Heavily armed Michiganders began showing up in Lansing around that time to intimidate lawmakers and demand an end to lockdown measures.

When asked by reporters whether he thought Trump’s tweet had influenced militias like Wolverine Watchmen, Biden responded Thursday afternoon, “Yes, I do.”

“Why won’t the president just say ‘stop. Stop, stop, stop,’” Biden said.

One of the men charged with plotting against Whitmer, Adam Fox, called her a “tyrant bitch” in a private Facebook group, according to the FBI.

“Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin’ Governor. Just grab the bitch,” Fox allegedly wrote. He is currently facing life in prison.

Whitmer called the decisions she has had to make in the pandemic “gut-wrenching,” adding that “2020 has been a hard year for all of us.”

“It’s been hard for the teachers, students and parents. Hard for those who have had to stay isolated to stay safe. But here’s what I know. We are Michiganders. We have grit. We have heart. And we are tough as hell,” she said.

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