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Live Blog: WKAR Local 2020 Election Updates

November 2020 Election
Pixabay Creative Commons

WKAR is following all the major races in Michigan. Check back here for updates throughout the night.

1:09 a.m. - Election Night updates concluded.

WKAR will continue to share election results and updates as we learn them. For the latest news, listen to Morning Edition Wednesday morning from 5-9 a.m. and All Things Considered from 5-7 p.m. on 90.5 WKAR.

11:57 p.m. - Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in absentee voting in Michigan, the wait for the results of the presidential election continues.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke to Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University about what issues were most important to Michigan voters this election and how this campaign season differed from 2016.

11:44 p.m. - Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday night that the initial tally of votes could wrap up sooner than expected. 

Benson said a lot of things fell into place, even with more people using absentee ballots and same-day voter registration.

“The story of today is there was extraordinarily high levels of turnout,” said Benson. “And there were extraordinarily high numbers of new people voting through registering to vote, and people by and large saw peacefulness, calmness in the precincts.”

Benson said somewhere between two and 2.5 million people showed up to vote. She said 3.3 million voted absentee.

Benson said a big factor in how quickly the results are finalized is wrapping up claims by election-place challengers. But she said the fact that there were few known instances of polling place confrontations is a good sign.

- Rick Pluta

10:46 p.m. - The polls in Michigan are now closed, and the country is waiting for the results of a historic presidential election.

WKAR’s Sophia Saliby spoke with Merissa Kovach, policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan about the organization’s role on Election Day.

8:12 p.m. - It’s after 8 o’clock, and the polls are now closed in Michigan on this Election Day that’s already secured its place in American history.

WKAR is closely following a number of key races that will determine the balance of political power in the coming years.

Some key races in the Lansing area we’ll be watching include:

  • Freshman Democrat Elissa Slotkin won Michigan’s 8th congressional district in 2018 on her record as an intelligence professional.  Tonight, she’s hoping to fend off a challenge from another former Trump administration insider, Republican Paul Junge.
  • Six years ago, Democrat Gary Peters became Michigan’s junior United States Senator.  Tonight, he faces Republican John James, who’s back for a re-match after losing to Peters in 2018.
  • Michigan's 7th congressional district race pits incumbent Republican Tim Walberg against Democratic challenger Gretchen Driskell.  Walberg was first elected to the U.S. House in 2006. He served one term before being ousted by Democrat Mark Schauer in 2008.  He regained his seat in 2010.  Driskell is a former state representative and seven-time mayor of Saline mounting her third attempt to unseat Tim Walberg.
  • Four Lansing-area first term Democrats are vying for a second term in the Michigan House of Representatives: Kara Hope (D-67), Sarah Anthony (D-68), Julie Brixie (D-69) and Angela Witwer (D-71).  In the 93rd state House district, first-term Republican Graham Filler is also trying to hold his seat.The Democrats must hold on to all of these seats plus flip four more across the state in order to take back the Michigan House from the Republican Party.
  • There are 10 candidates running for two seats on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. Democrats Brian Mosallam (incumbent) and Rema Vassar face Republicans Pat O’Keefe and former state representative Tonya Schuitmaker.  The other six challengers are Will Tyler White (Libertarian); Janet M. Sanger (U.S. Taxpayers Party); John Paul Sanger (U.S. Taxpayers Party); Brandon Hu (Green); Robin Laurain (Green) and Bridgette Abraham-Guzman (Natural Law).  The two victors will lead a university still recovering from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and now dealing with public health and financial concerns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

6:18 p.m. - Voters in Michigan made their pick for president while holding negative views about the country’s direction, according to an expansive AP survey of the American electorate.

The race between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden concluded Tuesday as the nation remains in the throes of a global public health crisis and mired in the economic downturn it brought on. AP VoteCast found that 38% of Michigan voters said the U.S. is on the right track and 61% of voters said it is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and what matters to them, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of about 127,000 voters and nonvoters -- including 3,453 voters and 893 nonvoters in Michigan

- Associated Press

6:04 p.m. - A Metro Detroit civil rights group is alleging voter harassment in Hamtramck during Election Day. 

Michigan’s chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, or CAIR, is making the complaint. The group said Hamtramck’s city clerk threatened to remove a poll challenger who was assisting a voter requiring Arabic-language assistance. 

CAIR staff attorney Amy Doukoure said that is illegal.

“Poll challengers are here to observe and to assist at the polls. They’re not prohibited from helping people, Doukoure said. “People who come into the polls who need assistance are able to get assistance from anybody that they need assistance from.”

Hamtramck City Clerk August Gitschlag said poll challengers cannot offer that kind of assistance under Michigan election law.

“Challengers are never allowed to talk to voters, even if they ask for help,” said Gitschlag.

According to Michigan election law, poll challengers are not authorized to approach voters or talk directly to voters for any reason. But Doukoure said the voter approached the challenger for the request. 

Under federal law voters with limited English proficiency can request help from the person of their choice.

- Eli Newman | WDET

5:52 p.m. - AG Nessel: Election so far “blissfully uneventful” 

Voting continues in Michigan Tuesday until the polls close at eight o’clock. At stake is Michigan’s 16 electoral college votes in the presidential race, as well as a U-S Senate seat. There are two or more tight congressional races and control of the state House of Representatives is in play.

Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office is ready to deal with unrest at polling places, but that has not been a problem.

“Things are going great here in Michigan. I would say it is blissfully uneventful. We have a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of engagement,” said Nessel. “High voter turnout, but we’ve had already 3.1 million people who have voted absentee.”

That’s almost three times the number of people who voted absentee in the presidential election four years ago.

- Rick Pluta

5:44 p.m. - According to the Washtenaw County director of elections, the majority of registered voters in Ann Arbor received absentee ballots for this election. And polling precincts have been busy too.

Credit Will Callan / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
People wait in line to vote at U of M's Sports Coliseum Tuesday.

The scene was calm and relatively uncrowded at the University of Michigan’s Sports Coliseum, which is also a polling place in Ann Arbor. Many of the voters lined up early this morning were U of M undergraduates voting in their first presidential election. All wore masks.

In Grand Rapids and elsewhere, more people voted absentee than ever before.

Voters have until 8 o'clock tonight to get to a polling precinct to vote in-person.

- Will Callan | Michigan Radio

4:44 p.m. - Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the reports she’s getting say there are few problems as people line up to vote in person Tuesday.

That includes instances of harassment or intimidation on the final day of a contentious election season.

But Whitmer said authorities are ready to deal with that if it happens.

“There’s a law on the books that says it is a felony. And we won’t tolerate it and we will take action. But so far we haven’t seen any of that," Whitmer said. "People are going, they’re joyful. It’s a gorgeous day out there. So, if you’ve got to wait in line, at least it’s a beautiful fall day.”

Absentee voting is also heavy. As of Monday, 2.9 million Michigan voters cast absentee ballots. That’s compared to 1.2 million absentee voters in 2016.

That equals 60% of all the absentee ballots cast in 2016. There are still 565,000 absentee ballots that have been issued but still not returned.

- Rick Pluta

4:20 p.m. - People who didn’t vote early turned out at Michigan polling places on this Election Day.


There was a steady stream of voters at Lansing’s South Washington Avenue polling site Tuesday, with the presidential election on people’s minds.

Republican voter Al Chapman says he hasn’t voted for a Democrat in his life. He voted for President Donald Trump. “The right hasn’t really changed,” Chapman said, “and it hasn’t moved to the right. The left has gone farther and farther and farther.”

At the same polling place, Marlena Jackson voted for former Vice President Joe Biden. In Jackson’s opinion: “We need a change. The pandemic is a big thing, and just the rhetoric and the hatefulness. I’m just ready to get the divide over.”

Credit Scott Pohl / WKAR-MSU
Voters wait in line at City Hall in Mason, where two precincts have polling places.

In Mason, Erin Berryhill voted for the Biden ticket. “I’m a Democrat for life,” she explained, “but I’m tired of four years with the mismanagement, lies, and all that.”

Another Mason voter, Jennifer LeForge was there to support Donald Trump’s re-election, stating “I like my freedom and I support a lot of his beliefs.”

At 8 p.m., Michigan polling places will close. You will be able to vote if you’re in line by that time.

- Scott Pohl

3:13 p.m. - Police are investigating vandalism that left several headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids spray-painted with “TRUMP” and “MAGA” before President Donald Trump held his final campaign rally in the western Michigan city.

Grand Rapids police officers on Monday found six headstones spray-painted with red paint at the Ahavas Israel Cemetery.

Credit Facebook / ADL Michigan
ADL Michigan
Images shared on Facebook by ADL Michigan show desecrated graves at Ahavas Israel Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The vandalism appeared to be “relatively new,” with “TRUMP” spray-painted on the back of four headstones, and “MAGA” — an acronym for the Trump campaign slogan Make America Great Again — spray-painted on two others, Sgt. John Wittkowski, a spokesman for the city’s police department, said in a statement.

The vandalized graves were discovered hours before Trump visited Grand Rapids late Monday night in his final campaign rally before Election Day. Police said no evidence was left at the scene.

Wittkowski said the Grand Rapids Police Department had made no arrests or identified any suspects in the vandalism as of Tuesday morning.

- Associated Press

1:34 p.m. - It’s likely that most of the ballots have already been cast in today’s elections. 

That’s because of the sheer volume absentee ballots already cast in Michigan. 

It’s easier to vote absentee in this election too. And more people are avoiding polling places during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jake Rollow is the spokesman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“Our expectation has been about 2 million people will vote today, and that about 3 million people will vote absentee, so about 5 million total has been sort of our expectation from the beginning,” Rollow said.

That would be both a record number of votes and a record number of absentee ballots.

Rollow said there are reports of long lines at some precincts, but that might just be because people are required to stand at least six feet apart.

- Rick Pluta

Michigan election officials say people in Flint are receiving robocalls with false voting information. 

State Attorney General Dana Nessel said Flint residents are being told that due to long lines they should vote tomorrow. This information is not true. Today is the last opportunity to cast a ballot. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said it’s an attempt at voter suppression.

“The attorney general is acting swiftly, has already opened an investigation into those allegations, is talking with the mayor about making sure that we do everything we can to get the correct information to every single voter in the city,” Benson said.

Michigan allows for same-day voter registration. Precincts close at 8-PM tonight.

- Eli Newman | WDET

State officials say it may take several days to calculate the final results, due to the large number of absentee ballots submitted this election.

Here are some of the races we're following:

  • Michigan’s nationally watched Senate race between Democratic incumbent Senator Gary Peters and his Republican challenger John James. This is James’ second bid for U.S. Senate—after losing to Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2018. This year, Democrats are relying on Peters to keep his seat so they can flip control of the U.S. Senate. Peters is polling ahead, but James is not far behind and Republicans are eyeing Michigan’s junior senate seat as one of the only seats in the country that they could pick up Tuesday night.
  • The play Democrats are making to flip the State House of Representatives. Democrats need to pick up four seats across suburban areas in Oakland County, Kalamazoo, & Traverse City plus keep the six seats they won in 2018. Republicans warn even if they make pickups in the suburbs of Detroit tonight, Democratic incumbent seats in Bay City and Livonia may be vulnerable, foreshadowing a split House rather than Democrats having an edge. If Democrats win the House, Michigan would be one of the states where Democrats could regain control of legislative chambers across the country after unprecedented Republican gains in 2010.
  • The race for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which Democrat Representative Elissa Slotkin flipped from red to blue in 2018. It was one of two congressional Michigan districts that flipped in 2018 and this year Republican challenger Paul Junge is trying to take it back despite being heavily out fundraised by Slotkin.
  • WKAR's Kevin Lavery will cover the race for control of Michigan’s 7th Congressional District between Republican Tim Walberg, who lost his first-term House seat only to win it back two years later, and Democrat Gretchen Driskell, the former state representative and seven-term Saline mayor who is challenging Walberg for a third time.
  • WKAR's Scott Pohl will visit polling places to find out why people chose to vote in person on Election Day rather than vote early. He'll also ask about safety concerns related to COVID-19 and guns at polling sites. However, most polling locations are schools and churches, which already don't allow the open carrying of firearms.
  • WKAR's Michelle Jokisch Polo will report on voter suppression and voter intimidation that may take place today.
As managing editor, Karel Vega supervises news reporters and hosts of news programming, and is responsible for the planning and editing of WKAR's news content.
Amanda Barberena helps write stories for online and books interviews for newscasts. The Michigan State University student started with WKAR in the Fall of 2017 during her freshman year.
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