Everything you need to know for election day, restaurants recording customer info, Michigan's record turnout

The wait is over and the polls are open. After a grueling election cycle that began in 2019 with the first announcement to run for president, the U.S. has widdled down a field of dozens to just two. Now, on Nov. 3, voters will get to decide whom among Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump should be president.

So far, more than 3 million votes have already been cast in Michigan. Another 2 million at least are expected to be cast on Tuesday.

The direction Michigan votes will be among the most anticipated results in the electorate. With both presidential campaigns barnstorming the state in the final week of the race, its little secret how significant the state's 16 electoral votes are.

Among the biggest barriers to knowing that answer is the speed by which mail-in ballots are counted. 

As it stands, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson predicts more than half of the state's total votes have already been cast. Those 3 million will need to be tabulated by hand on Tuesday.

Both Whitmer and Benson have told voters they'll need to be patient with the state count, anticipating an answer may not come until Friday at the latest. 

"That's why for us, having eyes and ears on the ground which we'll have to validate long lines or other concerns at the polls is something we'll be prioritizing throughout the day," said Benson on Monday.

Restaurants asking for patrons personal information

"They really love how well we are doing with masks and enforcement. so let’s throw them a next-level challenge of getting people’s name and information."

That's Bobcat Bonnie's owner Matt Buskard, who runs one of Ferndale's popular downtown restaurants. In a quote dripping with sarcasm lies a kernel of truth for the service industry.

Already restricting capacity limits and time in restaurants, eateries have a new responsibility: taking personal information

Mask mandates and social distancing have reduced the spread of COVID-19 - but under a new order from the Michigan health department, restaurants must record who they serve so the state can better keep up potential infections. 

It also has the potential to create more problems for servers and owners.

“It’s us pushing it, and us enforcing it," he said. "And it’s like who has our backs then? It can be overwhelming.”

While enforcement will fall on the restaurant, the health department can fine establishments out of compliance between $200 and $1,000 a day. 

COVID-19's spread is moving at dangerous levels throughout Michigan. While death and hospitalization rates have not matched the increase in cases, they have seen an uptick - a concern for health officials. 

In an interview with FOX 2 Tuesday morning, Whitmer said she is working with the health department and public health experts at the University of Michigan to employ a patchwork of restrictions and safety precautions. She also implored the legislature to work with her to help residents.

Read more here.

Michigan's historic turnout

How will the state's election systems perform under the biggest of microscopes? The Michigan Department of State has had months to prepare for every contingency. And amid a pandemic, there is a lot to consider.

If early voting totals are any indication, however, things have gone smoothly so far.

More than 3 million votes were cast through early voting means in Michigan. Another 2 million is expected to be cast at the polls on election day.

While 2020 will stand out as one of the state's highest turnouts ever, it's not an unusual headline during today's election cycle. So far, more than two-thirds of the nation's 2016 turnout has already voted. Many states have already exceeded their 2016 totals. 

In Michigan, it'll require more than 5 million ballots to break the record set in 2008.

If you're curious to see where early voting was highest, scan through the map below to see where your county ranks. 

As of Nov. 2, here are the vote totals for Metro Detroit counties:

  • Wayne County - 497,793
  • Oakland County - 463,476
  • Macomb County - 253,168
  • Washtenaw County - 145,971
  • Monroe County - 41,528
  • St. Clair County - 42,757
  • Livingston County - 69,800

Zookeeper cleared of wrong-doing but loses more than 200 animals

An exotic zookeeper in Detroit had animal cruelty charges dismissed against him after a judge threw out the charges.

The judge also ordered the animals seized from Javon Stacks to be returned to him. But there's one problem: more than 200 died after they were taken from him.

"Two hundred and eight animals have died since they seized them from me," he said. "When they came and seized them from my building, my facility, not one of the animals was dead, not one of them was ever sick."

Stacks has operated his exotic zoo for more than a decade, providing exhibitions and shows throughout the region and exposing inner-city kids like those from the Detroit City Lions Youth Club, to exotic animals, they might otherwise never see up close.

Stacks plans to take legal action against the city of Romulus over the dead animals.

Covid plasma trials for vaccine underway at Wayne State

Plasma has proven to be an effective therapeutic for helping patients infected with COVID-19 stave off the severest symptoms.

Doctors have started vaccine trials to discover why.

"With one we are going to see if we can prevent people from having to go to the hospital with coronavirus and keep them from getting too sick," said Dr. James Paxton, overseeing Wayne State University trials. "And the other one is to prevent people from getting the infection in the first place."

The trials are going on across the country, including at Wayne State.

Researchers need volunteers to help bolster the study. Learn more at www.covidplasmatrial.org.

Election Stories to Read

1. Michigan is hosting a surprisingly competitive Senate Race. Can John James knock off Gary Peters?
2. While the Congressional House races in Detroit remain breezes for many incumbents, there are some competitive campaigns unfolding outside the Motor City.
3. Yes, there are potential changes to the Michigan constitution on the ballot as well. Read our overview of the two ballot proposals residents can vote on.
4. There are stark differences between the candidates running for president. But that doesn't mean the race isn't close and competitive.
5. Have any last-minute questions about voting? You'll find the answers on FOX 2's November election guide

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

It'll be a sunny, unseasonably warm early November Tuesday this election day. Expect a cloudless forecast with a high of 59 degrees.

Businesses board up storefronts ahead of Election Day, fearing unrest, protests

Judging by the plywood, it’s shaping up to be an Election Day like no other.

In downtown Washington, the sounds of hammers and power tools echoed through the streets Monday as workers boarded up dozens of businesses. In New York City, businesses from Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square to high-end shops in Manhattan’s chic SoHo neighborhood had already covered their windows. Similar scenes played out in some other major cities across the U.S., with business owners fearing that Tuesday’s election could lead to the sort of unrest that broke out earlier this year.

Just a short walk from the White House, construction workers were carrying large sheets of plywood. For block after block, most stores had their windows and doors covered. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.

“We have to be ready,” said Ali Khan 66, who works at a now-barricaded downtown Washington liquor store where thousands of dollars in merchandise was stolen in June protests. “They smashed the windows and just walked out with everything.”