Relief for Michigan election clerks, rising Detroit rapper killed, Black Caucus want to end qualified immunity

"Voting in Michigan has never been easier or more convenient. We just have to go out and do it."

Actress Angela Basset's sentiment rings true, especially on Friday after only hours have passed since the legislature approved a bill that helps bolster the state's election systems.

Expected to be signed by the governor today, a new bill would allow election clerks in Michigan to begin processing ballots sooner.

Amid one of the country's most tumultuous election cycles that's made even more challenging by the pandemic, the poll workers received a bit of good news on Thursday when a bill that gives clerks 10 hours of extra time to prepare absentee ballots to be counted. That means removing the sealed envelope containing the ballot from the mailing envelope and readying it for counting when election day rolls around.

With the state nearing 2.5 million requests for absentee ballots, the State Department is already preparing for a record number of absentee votes to be mailed in.

Michigan's election system has never been faced with such a large mail vote count. Until 2018, nobody could vote absentee without a reason.

Since a ballot initiative during the midterms changed that, numbers for mail-in-voting have climbed each election cycle. Once the pandemic struck and voters had more reason to stay at home, they climbed even higher. 

About 1.7 million ballots were cast via mail during the August primary race, out of 2.1 million that was requested. The general election has already broken that record.

To combat a potential backlog in absentee votes being counted after polls close on Nov. 3, lawmakers have worked to make it easier for clerks to tabulate votes. The change only applies to municipalities with 25,000 or more residents. 

About 72 communities are eligible for early processing. 

The bill also allows clerks to use the second shift of workers to help count absentee ballots. Another amendment was also added that requires clerks to notify voters if they found a mistake with their absentee vote. 

Changes in Michigan election law haven't just come from the legislature, however. A judge last week also ruled that any ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 must be counted, even if they arrive after election day.

State officials have been concerned that delays in the mail service could lead to more votes being thrown out due to their late arrival.

Early voting in Michigan began on Thursday, with absentee ballots being mailed to residents who requested them.

Michigan AG, Secretary of State warn of election system hacking

The state of Michigan confirms it has weathered attempts from Russians to hack the election system.

So far attempts, Attorney General Dana Nessel said, have been unsuccessful. 

"We are in constant contact with the FBI, homeland security and others and we are certainly aware that the U.S. Senate report indicates there has been potential interference in our system nationally," she said.

Both also pushed back on a sentiment conveyed by President Donald Trump who refused to agree to a peaceful transition of power if he lost the election.

Benson said there was no slant against him in the state's election systems.

Michigan Black Caucus introduces law increasing policing accountability

A day following the announcement of charges in the case of Breonna Taylor, leaders in Michigan sought to build on the momentum for criminal justice reform.

Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and Rev. Charles Williams III joined the Michigan Black Caucus on Thursday to introduce a proposal that would remove law-abiding immunity for officers who use unreasonable force.

"Let me clear - unreasonable, unjustifiable," said Carter.

It's one of many reforms that Black leaders have pushed for in 2020.

"Reform in terms of how police officers are educated, how they are recruited, how they serve in certain communities how they hold on to their license," said Williams, who is chair of the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network. 

Rising Detroit rap star Jizzle P killed in driveway

A rising star in Detroit's local rap scene was killed on Tuesday after an unknown gunman walked up to a car he was sitting in and shot.

Aaron Mays, who went by Jizzle P, was sitting in a Chrysler 300 in a driveway on Fielding Street near McNichols and Evergreen around 8:15 p.m. when him and another man were hit but gunfire.

"I heard his mom screaming, they killed her kids in her driveway," neighbor Kenny Reardon said. "It's terrible."

Neighbors said they heard about eight gunshots.

The other victim remains in critical condition. Detroit Police are still looking for the suspect. 

Other Stories

1. Detroit Thanksgiving parade to be televised only; Turkey Trot to be virtual 
2. Michigan lawmakers approve bill that expunges marijuana offenses from criminal records
3. White detective sues MSP, claiming gender, sexual orientation, racism 
4. Michigan offers guidance for trick-or-treating amid COVID-19 

Daily Forecast
A forecast for next week reveals an eventual cooldown. But before then is a perfect weekend with low 80s expected for Friday through Sunday.

Coronavirus relief bill: Democrats back to drawing board to redraft proposal

House Democrats are going back to the drawing board on a huge COVID-19 relief bill, paring back the measure in an attempt to jump-start negotiations with the Trump administration.

The Democratic-controlled chamber could also pass the $2.4 trillion measure next week if talks fall through to demonstrate that the party isn't giving up on passing virus relief before the election.

The chamber passed a $3.4 trillion rescue measure in May but Republicans dismissed the measure as bloated and unrealistic. Even as Democrats cut their ambitions back by $1 trillion or so, Senate Republicans have focused on a much smaller rescue package in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.

Bridging the overall topline gulf would be difficult enough, but fleshing out hundreds of legislative details at the height of the presidential campaign and a heated battle over filling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the High Court could be impossible.