We’re less than two weeks from the Nov. 3 general election, and Michigan projects to be one of the most important states in the presidential race between incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump won the state in 2016 in a surprise victory by roughly 10,000 votes, even though Hillary Clinton was projected to win it.

The Detroit Free Press is Michigan’s largest newspaper, and its politics team has been hard at work covering state politics, Michigan lawmakers in U.S. Congress, and election ramifications in the state. Todd Spangler is our D.C. correspondent. Dave Boucher covers government & politics in Michigan. Paul Egan covers Michigan government & legislature. Clara Hendrickson is our Report For America corps member, working in partnership with the Freep and PolitiFact. Follow the Detroit Free Press’ politics coverage here. The Michiganders’ guide to voting in the 2020 election, including all of Clara’s fact checks:https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/19/election-2020-voting-fact-checks/3632668001/

Top 3 Michigan regions key to presidential race: https://www.freep.com/in-depth/news/politics/elections/2020/10/12/michigan-battleground-regions-2020-trump-biden-detroit/5828629002/

Roughly two-thirds of Michigan’s ballots will be cast early, SOS says:https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/20/absentee-michigan-election-2020/5989727002/

Michigan appeals court says late-arriving absentee ballots should not be countedhttps://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/17/court-reversal-late-arriving-absentee-ballots-appeal/3695234001/


EDIT, 4:07 p.m.: Thank you all so much for participating and asking questions! We really enjoyed being with you here today and we hoped our answers provided some clarity for you. Check out all our election coverage at https://freep.com/politics/ and be sure to follow our website all Election Day long for updates from the polls and results as we gather them. Have a great rest of your week!

Comments: 200 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

Hustlemuscle41 karma

How do you combat accusations of bias when doing something as simple as fact checking?

detroit_free_press80 karma

Sourcing is super important. It's always good to provide the source you're citing when you're doing a factcheck, so readers can see for themselves where you're getting your information. There will always be accusations of bias, but I've found when you ask people who accuse you of bias for specific examples, while citing where you found your information, they generally have a difficult time. People frequently interpret facts that they do not like as bias, but it's our job to provide accurate information! - DB

Hustlemuscle21 karma

Follow up; doesn't it wear you down after a while?

detroit_free_press54 karma

Sometimes, but for every accusation of bias, I think of all the folks reading who learned something new because of our fair and accurate reporting. There are a lot of lies and half-truths in politics. Someone needs to clean it up the mess.


detroit_free_press22 karma

I will say that context is super important, too. During an election, campaigns will make leaps that might -- but don't necessarily -- hold water. For instance, there are all kinds of procedural votes and gamesmanship votes in Congress that one side or the other wants to use as proof of something when they often are not (such as when someone votes against a bill that has lots of items in it and singles out one, saying so-and-so voted against it)...TS

detroit_free_press21 karma

Yep, it can be a bit tiresome to have someone you've never met excoriate your work, using expletives and personal attacks, because they don't like the facts presented. While I certainly wish those attacks would stop, we have to do everything we can to provide accurate information to readers. I also absolutely love my job and I'm humbled and grateful that many, many readers appreciate what we do. - DB

detroit_free_press17 karma

I love this question! Unsurprisingly, the fact-checks I've written (depending on who I'm fact-checking and the conclusion I reach) tend to make some people happy and some people angry. That's just the nature of the work in a highly polarized climate... But it is my job to thoroughly review all the evidence to reach a fair conclusion. I've fact-checked Democrats and Republicans. My fact-checks have been cited in both Democratic and Republican campaign ads.

I think it's important, too, for folks to understand the process. I reach out the person making the claim and ask for evidence. My fact-checks are reviewed and voted on by a team of editors. And I look to how other fact-checkers have examined similar statements in the past.


detroit_free_press15 karma

You can't get away from accusations of bias, you can only be as fair and as thorough as you can. Accusations of bias are often thrown around in order to undermine a fair point that doesn't help someone's cause anyway. The best you can do is be able to explain why the facts point where they do and let accusations pass by

gianthooverpig27 karma

Has the plot against the governor change opinions or perceptions much in MI?

detroit_free_press39 karma

Changed opinions on the presidential election? Polls have pretty consistently shown VP Biden leading President Trump by 8-9 percentage points in Michigan. The governor has also frequently shown pretty high (60%+) approval ratings, and those haven't really changed either. Whitmer has called for people to de-escalate rhetoric around politics and government, something some Republican leaders in the legislature have echoed (although the governor and those leaders continue to trade barbs a bit over COVID-related legislation and other issues). - DB

detroit_free_press27 karma

We haven't done any polling since this happened, but I don't sense that many views have changed. Supporters of Gov. Whitmer are probably more supportive of her than ever in light of the charges brought by federal and state officials, and they share her outrage at President Trump and others who they feel are fueling such behavior. As for those who oppose the governor and her policies, I don't think the alleged plot has changed their minds. PE

HealthyLakes14 karma

Hi all, and thank you for doing this AMA! We're the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, and we advocate for a variety of priorities having to do with clean water access for Great Lakes communities.

Access to clean drinking water is a persistent problem for Michigan communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities. Water insecurity can come from many different causes: drinking water sources contaminated by agricultural runoff and non-point sources, failing infrastructure that causes sewage overflows, point-source pollution, lead pipes, and many other threats.

What plans have candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump put forward to address these and other causes of water insecurity in Michigan and other Great Lakes states?

detroit_free_press12 karma

Clearly, President Trump's administration made some changes like getting rid of WOTUS that many farmers applauded but many others are worried could lead to degredation of water quality. I think it's fair to say that Vice President Biden would generally be more welcoming of environmental regulations that the current administration has been. But it's clear that there is an ongoing fight over where these lines should be drawn and redrawn. For specifics on their policy, I'd refer anyone to their campaign websites; i think w/out covid, we would have spent a lot more time discussing this... I will say that President Trump takes a lot of credit when he's in Michigan w/fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, when his administration was the one that earlier called for getting rid of it...ts

Togapr3310 karma

As a non-Michigander, is the R&D geographical divide between the upper peninsula and the rest of Michigan?

detroit_free_press26 karma

No, not really, pretty much all of north Michigan and the UP are predominantly Republican-leaning these days. Democrats are particularly strong in metro Detroit and the two big college towns, Ann Arbor and East Lansing, with some residual power in older industrial areas like Flint, Saginaw, Muskegon. What's interesting is that Republican-leaning exurbs are slowly becoming more Democratic leaning, where former industrial areas (other than Detroit proper) are becoming somewhat more Republican leaning as they shrink... TS

Down_Low_Too_Slow7 karma

I know the governor and AG are pushing to expand voting opportunities, but what types of voter suppression is happening at the local levels and red counties of Michigan?

detroit_free_press2 karma

Thanks for the question. I'm not sure there are obvious, overt voter suppressions operations occurring in specific counties. We did cover a story about two men accused of distributing a robocall in southeast Michigan aimed at spreading misinformation about voting. The men have been charged and have pleaded not guilty: https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/08/jacob-wohl-jack-burkman-surrender-michigan-racist-robocall-case/5921804002/

In general, Democrats would argue efforts by Republicans to challenge who can collect absentee ballots and whether absentee ballots received after Election Day amounts to suppression. Republicans argue they're supporting the rule of law. A court recently overruled a lower court in the state which had allowed for absentee ballots mailed by Nov. 3 to count, as long as they're received within 14 days of the election. Now, as is stated in the law, only those ballots received by clerks by 8 p.m. on Election Day are valid. - DB

OkAd10987 karma

Does Dave think Michigan is better than WV and why? Answer in Tudors biscuit types only. Drew Ross

detroit_free_press18 karma

Hi Drew! The states can certainly Duke it out when it comes to stories about a Politician, Dottie characters or not-so-Miner developments. While it was great to spend time in the Mountaineer state, the Thundering Herd of quality journalism and people in Michigan pulled me home! - DB

detroit_free_press6 karma

They are both wonderful places as someone who went to WVU. And I could go for a Tudor's right now (or a Lafayette coney--two states, such great food choices...)

detroit_free_press2 karma

by the way, this is Spangler

OkAd10980 karma

well said

detroit_free_press2 karma

There used to be a place on the west side of Charleston when I lived there a loooong time ago: Chris'. Great dogs. Still there? Anyone know?

deryq6 karma

Do I have to change my ID to change my voter registration address when I move? I have an enhanced license and I don't think the SoS is allowing ID issues to be done in the office at this time due to covid. But the online portal doesn't allow for those ID changes online with enhanced. I'm just confused I guess and I want to make sure I vote in the right place, in the right precinct, and my vote counts!

detroit_free_press6 karma

This just in from MI Sec of State in response to your question (PE):

they can go in person to their clerk’s office and provide other forms of proof of residency (as outlined at Michigan.gov/Vote) to get their registration updated even without their ID getting changed.

That being said there are also special appointments right now from 3-5 p.m. M-F at all branch offices specifically to update IDs/replace missing ones/etc. so this person would actually qualify for one of those special appointments if they wanted to. Their registration would be updated when they got their ID fixed at the branch office as we’re an automatic voter registration state. They could schedule their appointment at Michigan.gov/SOSAppointments

Either option would work for them.

detroit_free_press4 karma

Hi! You need to vote in the precinct where you currently reside. You'll need to re-register at that new address. You can do this even if you don't have an ID that reflects the new address. Here's more information on how you can do this: https://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-5647_12539_29836-88648--,00.html -DB

detroit_free_press3 karma

Do I have to change my ID to change my voter registration address when I move? I have an enhanced license and I don't think the SoS is allowing ID issues to be done in the office at this time due to covid. But the online portal doesn't allow for those ID changes online with enhanced. I'm just confused I guess and I want to make sure I vote in the right place, in the right precinct, and my vote counts!

I think I know the correct answer but have sent a note to the Sec of State to try to make sure. Hope to get back to you shortly. PE

detroit_free_press3 karma

That's a good question! Michigan voters can present any of the following types of photo ID at their polling location:

  • Michigan driver's license or state-issued ID card
  • Driver's license or personal identification card issued by another state
  • Federal or state government-issued photo identification
  • U.S. passport
  • Military ID with photo
  • Student identification with photo from a high school or accredited institution of higher learning
  • Tribal identification card with photo

But you don't need an ID to vote! Voters who do not have any of the forms of identification listed above or forgot to bring a photo ID with them to the polls can sign an affidavit attesting they are not in possession of a photo ID. After signing the affidavit, voters can cast a ballot. 

You should be sure to change your voter registration address so that you're assigned and voting in the correct precinct on Election Day.

I hope that helps!


slapstick2235 karma

Why has the Free Press ruined itself by putting most articles behind a paywall?

detroit_free_press2 karma

I'll let our executive editor Peter Bhatia explain but, long story short, producing journalism on a daily basis costs a lot of time, resources and, of course, money. And with advertising revenue drying up across the news industry, we need that financial support more than ever to continue serving Detroit, the metro area and the rest of Michigan. We hope you'll consider subscribing so we can keep doing what we do, and to have the resources necessary to do even better. -BM https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/08/03/freep-detroit-free-press-editor-online-subscription/5572769002/

Hustlemuscle4 karma

How much stock do you put in polls?

detroit_free_press6 karma

Hey thanks for the question. I think polls are a piece of information like anything else you'd like to have when writing a story. In and of themselves they have limitations and can be wrong, though taken together I think it's fair to say they usually suggest public sentiment at a given time. It's real important to remember their limitations, however...TS

detroit_free_press6 karma

Polls are a snapshot in time. Some factors I use in assessing them: Sample size, margin of error, live caller (better, I think) or automated? track record of the polling firm, what is the partisan make-up of the sample, and it is representative of the state or other political division being surveyed?

detroit_free_press7 karma

While the 2016 presidential election sowed a doubt in polling, it's important to remember that the national polls weren't off by much. Key state polls, on the other hand, gave the impression that Donald Trump would lose. Some polls are better than others. I think it's most useful to look at polling averages. -CH


Over in small town west Michigan, we have a lot of trump fanatics.

I live down the road from a guy who has a large trump mural, and has cut a few pieces of metal into life size silhouettes painted to look like him.

There's massive trump signs in front of damn near every business and most homes

People everywhere wearing trump masks because apparently that's what they want to be the first thing people know about them.

Trucks driving around flying giant trump 2020 flags.

I went to a comedy club, and the moment the guy on stage changed from a Bernie impression to a trump impression, the laughter halted abruptly, three tables up and left immediately while others booed him.

My question is, are you as nervous as I am about how these folks are going to react if this guy doesn't win? They're convinced everything else they don't like is a government conspiracy. Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's back and sets Lansing on fire?

detroit_free_press2 karma

Hi. Thanks for asking your question. Generally, people in Michigan and the United States accept the results of the election. While it's essentially impossible to predict how every single person will react, history indicates any substantial or widespread problems are not the norm.

While there are some reports that protests or other anti-government activity may be more slightly likely after the election, the reports I've seen cite largely anecdotal evidence. Michigan election and law enforcement officials say they are prepared for the election, although they advise wearing a mask and not to openly carrying firearms at or near the polls. - DB

The_Power_Of_Three2 karma

How does one filter out bad faith "polls" that are actually fundraising or campaign outreach disguised as polling, from authentic ones? I'm happy to participate in real telephone polls, but the absolute deluge of fake polls makes it hard to give them the time of day without some way to determine which are going to be real.

detroit_free_press1 karma

Great question. It sounds like you're asking how to spot a real poll vs. a push poll, or a poll intended to derive a specific answer.

While it may be hard to determine this over the phone, there should be some giveaways. Typically it comes down to how questions are phrased. If the questions appear to be obviously biased (Isn't Jane Doe the most inspiring candidate? How often do you think John Doe cheats on his taxes) then that's a dead giveaway.

More broadly, if you're looking to see which poll results are most reliable, I think FiveThirtyEight has a nice ratings system (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/michigan/). They included information from many different polls while grading individual pollsters based on previous results and their methods. - DB

poggiebow2 karma

Why don’t more detroiters vote?

detroit_free_press1 karma

Hi. Actually, lots of Detroiters vote! As Todd Spangler noted in his piece today, metro Detroit accounts for about 40% of the entire state vote each election: https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/23/donald-trump-joe-biden-michigan-campaign/5996914002/.

So far, more than 160,000 Detroiters have requested absentee ballots, and more than 73,000 ballots have been returned.

In general, the reasons people don't vote tend to be universal: disinterest, a feeling that an individual vote won't matter, an idea that a particular race is already deciding, forgetting about the election, etc. However, experts anticipate this election may have the highest voter turnout, statewide, in Michigan history. - DB

IAmCletus2 karma

What effect do you think the lockdown in Ann Arbor will have on voter turnout?

detroit_free_press2 karma

Hi! Are you referring to the recent order issued to Michigan undergraduate students? That order is in place until Nov. 3, so in theory if those students are Michigan residents and want to vote, they should be able to make it to their local polling place. By and large, the city of Ann Arbor is not "locked down." Residents in the city, like everywhere else in the state, have the opportunity to cast an absentee ballot or to vote in person on Election Day. As of earlier this week, Ann Arbor has issued more than 52,000 absentee ballots and nearly 30,000 were returned. Experts anticipate voter participation in this election may set new state records. -DB

yeti50002 karma

Why is Michigan a battleground state?

detroit_free_press3 karma

Michigan is a battleground state because it's home to a sizable demographic groups that tend to vote in differently. In 2016, Trump won the state by only 10,704 votes. While the state hadn't supported a Republican presidential candidate in 1988, the close election in 2016 makes it competitive. A recent piece from my colleague Todd Spangler looks at the different regions in Michigan and how voters in them could swing the election (https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/23/donald-trump-joe-biden-michigan-campaign/5996914002/). -CH

MunzerZaRedditMaster2 karma

Who are you guys personally rooting for?

detroit_free_press3 karma

Democracy! -CH

BluePinky2 karma

In this ultra-polarized election season, is there any real sizeable group of undecided voters?

detroit_free_press2 karma

There are fewer undecided voters this presidential election than in 2016. The majority of voters – 95% or higher in most polls – say they have already decided who they're supporting (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/18/donald-trumps-toughest-hurdle-2020-election-win-few-undecideds/3654305001/). Interestingly, there are more undecided voters in Michigan's Senate race between Democratic incumbent Gary Peters and Republican John James. A recent Free Press poll found that 11% of voters surveyed were undecided (https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/10/15/gary-peters-lohn-james-free-press-poll/3643966001/). -CH

BigVelcro1 karma

I constantly see your Facebook comment section as a breeding ground of misinformation and inflammatory comments, are there any steps you have taken to tone down some of the awful stuff that goes on there? I realize a lot of that falls on Facebook.

detroit_free_press3 karma

Great question! This is Brian Manzullo, the social search & audience editor at the Freep. Long story short: We get to as much as we can, but it can be a lot. Some of the posts on our page get upwards of hundreds to thousands of comments and, with a small digital staff already tending to a lot of other things (including on-site comments!), we don't always get to as many posts as we'd like. We do monitor for extreme issues such as hate speech, bullying, bigotry, disinformation, etc., and we have settings to auto-hide posts with flagged words and such. And readers have been very helpful in flagging things for us that we need to address, and we do so promptly. That said, admittely, we aren't perfect, and are always open to suggestions and feedback from readers on how we can improve the experience. -BM

Musashi0031 karma

Is there a way for the next election debates to have live fact checking?

detroit_free_press8 karma

Many media outlets are doing live (or nearly live) fact checking now. The Free Press tries to do it as quickly as possible, while ensuring accuracy, on matters related specifically to Michigan, such as claims about the automobile industry. Thanks for asking and I hope this answers your question.

MyTurnsCominOn0 karma

Why haven't you covered Hunter and Joes involvement with foreign entities? Why are news outlets ignoring hard evidence? Are you biased? Thanks.

detroit_free_press4 karma

I can't speak for every news outlet's coverage in this respect. Many media outlets have covered the claims. Here's Lou Jacobson from PolitiFact (https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/oct/19/fact-checking-claims-about-hunter-biden-joe-biden-/). He took a look at the evidence and found that there's no evidence that either Hunter or Joe Biden broke any laws and that the allegations against Joe Biden being corrupt or pursuing policies against the national interest don't add up. -CH