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President Trump traveled to the Midwest on Saturday for back-to-back evening rallies in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states he won by a hair in 2016 in surprise upsets. Neither side is taking those states for granted this time.

Vice President Pence will head to Pennsylvania, another crucial state that had traditionally voted for a Democrat in presidential elections, but narrowly went for Trump four years ago.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) have no public events scheduled today. The Biden campaign sent a memo to supporters urging them not to become complacent in the election’s final weeks even if polling shows them ahead.

With 17 days until the election …
2:14 a.m.
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Giving condolences to Macron over teacher’s beheading, Trump touts travel ban

By Hannah Knowles

At a Wisconsin campaign rally Saturday, Trump gave his condolences to his “friend” French President Emmanuel Macron over the gruesome beheading of a Paris-suburb teacher who, according to authorities, showed students caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Authorities in France have identified the victim as 47-year-old Samuel Paty. Macron said the perpetrator, who was fatally shot by police, carried out an “Islamist terrorist attack.”

Trump echoed him, calling the violence a “vicious, vicious Islamic terrorist attack” and taking the moment to tout his “ban,” an apparent reference to his prohibition on travelers from a number of majority-Muslim countries.

Trump previously made a campaign pledge for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” stoking fears of discrimination.

The Supreme Court in 2018 narrowly ruled that Trump had the authority to issue his travel ban if he believed it necessary to protect the country, after lower courts struck down various versions.

12:41 a.m.
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Trump says there is ‘something beautiful’ about people ‘pushed around’ at Minneapolis protests

By Hannah Knowles
In Muskegon, Mich., on Oct. 17, President Trump recalled the use of federal forces to stop summer protests in Minneapolis, saying, "Wasn't that beautiful?" (The Washington Post)

President Trump told supporters Saturday that there was “something very beautiful” about “watching everybody get pushed around” in Minneapolis as National Guard troops responded to the upheaval after George Floyd’s death.

“Wasn’t that beautiful?” Trump said at an evening campaign rally in Michigan. “In Minneapolis‚ they came in, these soldiers … And they had their tear gas, and they had their pepper spray, which the other side doesn’t want you to use, because it’s not nice.”

“They can throw cans at you,” he said. “They can throw rocks and stones and hurt your police, but you’re not allowed to guard yourself with tear gas, pepper spray.”

Video of Floyd going limp in May as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck sparked mass protests and a nationwide reckoning over racism and police violence. Trump has been campaigning with a “law and order” message, urging crackdowns on the persistent demonstrations that have sometimes turned violent and criticizing “Democrat-run cities and states” for failing to quell unrest.

On Saturday, Trump spoke approvingly of the use of force in Minneapolis.

The forces “marched forward,” the president said, “and the whole thing was over.”

The rally crowd cheered.

“There’s something about that,” Trump said, “when you’re watching everybody getting pushed around, there’s something very beautiful about it.”

He said the statement was “not politically correct” but added to his supporters, “You people get it; you get it probably better than I do even.”

11:58 p.m.
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Whitmer condemns rhetoric at Trump rally with chants of ‘lock her up’

By Hannah Knowles
As President Trump went after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a speech on Oct. 17, the crowd in Muskegon, Mich., shouted back, "Lock her up!" (The Washington Post)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Saturday slammed President Trump’s rally in her state where people chanted “lock her up,” denouncing it as promoting “exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans.”

The chants — a familiar refrain deployed against political foes at Trump’s campaign events — came a little more than a week after authorities revealed a foiled plot to kidnap Whitmer, allegedly motivated in part by the belief that Michigan’s government was violating the Constitution with its coronavirus restrictions. Trump has repeatedly condemned Whitmer’s pandemic response as overly strict with calls to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and he reprised his criticisms at his Saturday campaign event in the swing state.

“You have got to get your governor to open up your state, okay?” he said to huge cheers at the rally in Muskegon, Mich. “And get your schools open.” The crowd began to chant for Whitmer’s imprisonment, and Trump shook his head at one point but did not tamp them down.

“Lock ’em all up,” he said, as the chants continued amid a sea of red hats.

11:27 p.m.
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Dispatch from Massachusetts: Long lines to vote in Boston area

By Douglas Moser

BROCKTON, Mass. — Arnold Corse votes every year, often early.

This year, Corse said he wanted to take advantage of the additional early voting time Massachusetts scheduled in response to the coronavirus pandemic and get his vote in right away. But he arrived at the early voting polling station at the Westgate Mall in this city of about 96,000 just south of Boston when it opened at noon Saturday to find a line of dozens of people.

“It was just packed,” he said at 4 p.m., adding that he left and came back.

Polling locations around Boston reported high interest and lines — sometimes hundreds of people long in Boston itself — as voters here jumped to take advantage of a new, longer early voting window.

Election officials in the Westgate Mall polling place said that as of 4:15 p.m., they had 486 voters and just under two hours to go.

Corse, a Black man from Brockton, said he was confident about the integrity of the election this year. But he showed up in person, as he does every year, “just to be sure.”

Others in Boston and its surrounding cities and towns also showed up in person just to be sure, pointing to comments by President Trump criticizing mail-in voting, reports of backups and delays at the U.S. Postal Service and uncertainty caused by the pandemic that made them qualify affirmations of trust in the electoral system.

“I have hope in the integrity of the election,” Stewart Smith, 35, a Black man and a Biden supporter, said before voting at City Hall in Chelsea, Mass. on Saturday. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Town clerks and state officials said requests for absentee ballots are extremely high. Initial turnout counts for the first day of early voting were not available.

Turnout in the September state primary cruised past a 1990 primary turnout record, according to state officials. More than 1.7 million voters cast ballots in the primary: 47.7 percent by mail, and 12.2 percent in person during a week-long early voting period, said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin.

That left only 40 percent of votes cast on Election Day.

“I would expect early voting for the November election to be much busier,” O’Malley said.

Moser is a freelance journalist.

9:38 p.m.
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Cat videos, ‘Hamilton’ and a threat from Trump to leave the country

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden was off the campaign trail Saturday, but his team was pushing out viral digital content, much of which seemed targeted at younger voters whose turnout could determine the outcome of the election.

In the morning, it was cat videos. (It is the Internet, after all.)

Then, an hour or so later, Biden unveiled a campaign ad featuring the original cast of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton.” As the ensemble sing about being in the room where it happens, actors are shown filling out their mail-in ballots.

Later in the day, the Biden camp put out another digital ad, this one showing Trump on Friday night pondering whether he’ll leave the country if he loses to Biden.

“Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do?” Trump said at a campaign rally in Georgia. “I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”

The ad also features Trump at rallies in the battleground states of Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina threatening his supporters that he’ll never return to their state if he doesn’t win. There’s also a clip from a Florida rally, warning supporters that if he loses the state he’d be “so angry” with them and might not love them anymore.

8:15 p.m.
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Trump and Pelosi haven’t spoken in a year as grave crises grip the nation

By Paul Kane

President Trump stormed into the White House meeting with congressional leadership Oct. 16, 2019, and launched into a diatribe loosely connected to a discussion of the Syrian civil war.

Trump said he had not invited any of the Democrats, but several were present, and he quickly belittled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), calling her a “third-grade politician.”

“I wish you were a politician,” Pelosi shouted back, as she retold the story later that day at the Capitol.

After more clashes about the actual policy in Syria, Pelosi stood, pointed at Trump and told him what she thought, a moment captured and released by the official Trump photographer. Then the Democrats left the White House.

“Goodbye,” the president yelled, according to the notes of a Democrat present. “We’ll see you at the polls.”

He meant it.

That was the last time the president and the House speaker talked to each other. It has been more than a year since the leaders of the executive and legislative branches have had direct communication. Now, in a little more than two weeks, Trump heads to the polls hobbled by his administration’s handling of the deadly coronavirus, incapable of cinching another round of economic relief that his advisers have pursued with Pelosi.

6:52 p.m.
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Dispatch from Massachusetts: Voting underway at Fenway Park

By Douglas Moser

BOSTON — Hundreds of people swarmed Fenway Park on Saturday, not to celebrate the Red Sox but to vote. The storied baseball venue is one of the city’s 21 early voting sites as in-person election season begins in Massachusetts.

After the sun broke up early morning showers and chased a chill out of the air, people waited more than an hour in a line that snaked from Gate A, three quarters away around the ballpark that is open for voting just this weekend.

Many people cited their busy schedules as the reason for waiting in a long line on the first day.

“I’m a full-time student and I have a full-time job, so I wanted to make sure I could vote because I don’t know when else that could be,” said Caroline Olesky, 20, an undergrad at Boston University from California who planned to vote for Biden.

“Voting is legitimately one of my favorite things to do, because I like the feeling of exercising my rights that other people fought for,” Lindsay Ford, 36, a Democrat and digital marketing specialist said after voting for Biden.

Voters here and in surrounding communities expressed feelings ranging from distrust to ambivalence about mail-in voting this year, even though many had used mail ballots in previous elections.

“It’s not that I don’t trust the mail-in process, but I want to be there in person to put the ballot in to make sure it gets counted,” Shawn Theriault, 52, said before voting at City Hall in Chelsea, Mass.

Jim Shea, 46, a safety manager at a local company, said he didn’t trust the mail-in system and wanted to make sure his ballot for Trump was counted right in front of him. “It’s a fraudulent system,” he said of mail-in voting. “Too many ballots end up in the wrong place or in the trash.”

There is no evidence of significant problems with mail-in ballots in Massachusetts. But nearly 3,000 mail-in ballots in September’s Democratic primary, which featured a closely watched race between incumbent Sen. Edward J. Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy were misplaced and uncounted in Franklin, Mass. The town clerk resigned days later.

According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, 1.75 million people requested absentee ballots as of Friday, 96 percent of which had been mailed out.

“There’s no comparison to this year,” said Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin. “We’ve never had no-excuse absentee voting before. Typically 3 to 5 percent vote absentee. Right now, we’re just shy of 38 percent.”

6:23 p.m.
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Dispatch from Nevada: Steady lines to vote in Las Vegas

By John M. Glionna

LAS VEGAS — Voters in Nevada formed long lines Saturday to cast ballots on the first day of early voting in the state. Across Las Vegas, at makeshift voting locations set up in malls, senior centers and even along the famous Las Vegas Strip, residents began assembling up two hours before the polls opened.

“I like to be first in line whatever I do,” said Ronald Otis Boyd, 49, who sat in a plastic tailgate-party chair near the front of a long line outside the West Flamingo Senior Center. “And if there was ever an election you wanted to get in line to take part in, this is the one.”

Rubbing a lizard tattoo on his right ankle, Boyd said he trusted that the vote would be fair; growing up as a military kid, he watched his father vote by mail for years.

What does trouble him is what will happen with the transition of power if Trump is not reelected, he said.

“Frankly, the man scares me,” Boyd said. “He can posture all he wants, but this vote comes down to the American people. If they vote him out, well, it is what it is. I just hope he’s an adult, accepts defeat and moves on.”

There was another reason Boyd showed up Saturday in person. He’d read about the increased scrutiny of ballot signatures and that spooked him. “My signature is like a snowflake,” he said. “I never sign it the same way, so I want somebody to watch me do it, so they know it’s legit.”

Officials assured voters that no one would be turned away from the polls; if they weren’t wearing a mask, they’d be provided one. Some precincts featured plexiglass barriers between socially distanced voting machines, which were sanitized after each use.

Anticipating long lines, local election officials offered an online tool that provided estimated wait times at each voting location.

Sandy Bailey stood in line with four extended family members. She said that people were out to get Trump. Even though Nevada was one of several states to offer all voters the opportunity to vote by mail, she was having none of it.

“I’m skeptical of this whole election,” she said. “We’ve already read about ballots being found in the trash, ballot harvesting pre-filled ballots. The potential for fraud is just too high. I want to see my vote go right into that machine, so I know it’s counted.”

“If [Trump] loses, the election was obviously rigged,” Bailey added. “But he’s not going to lose.”

5:52 p.m.
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Trump attacks ‘Little Ben Sasse’ over senator’s sharp criticism of the president

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump began his Saturday tweeting angrily about Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who this week made headlines for brutal assessments he made about the president on a phone call with constituents.

The president, borrowing a nickname he used for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during the 2016 GOP primary, called the senator “Little Ben Sasse,” “obnoxious” and an “embarrassment” in a two-tweet character attack.

“The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help. @SenSasse was as nice as a RINO can be until he recently won the Republican …

“ … Nomination to run for a second term. Then he went back to his rather stupid and obnoxious ways. Must feel he can’t lose to a Dem. Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!”

Sasse is running for reelection against Democrat Chris Janicek. The seat is considered “safe GOP” according to RealClearPolitics.

Earlier this week, Sasse held little back when asked by a constituent why he’d been so critical of Trump. The senator, one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who have occasionally opposed the president’s behavior, went on a long screed, accusing the president of cozying up to dictators, mistreating women, flirting with white supremacists, irresponsibly handling the coronavirus pandemic and allowing his family to treat the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

Sasse spokesman James Wegmann responded on Twitter to Trump’s tweets, saying the senator wasn’t going to engage.

“Ben said the same thing to Nebraskans that he has repeatedly said to the President directly in the Oval Office,” Wegmann wrote. “Ben is focused on defending the Republican Senate majority, and he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.”

About two hours later, Trump wasn’t ready to let it go, tweeting again about Sasse and comparing him to former Republican senators Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) who had been critical of Trump and retired rather than run for reelection in 2018.

“Both Senators became totally unelectable, couldn’t come even close to winning their primaries, and decided to drop out of politics and gracefully ‘RETIRE.’ @SenSasse could be next, or perhaps the Republicans should find a new and more viable candidate?” Trump tweeted.

Trump endorsed Sasse’s reelection in September 2019, and in return Sasse tempered his criticism of Trump ahead of a primary in which his opponent hit him for not being loyal enough to Trump. Sasse won the May primary in a landslide, beating his opponent 77 percent to 23 percent.

5:33 p.m.
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Biden campaign warns Trump could still win, says race is ‘far closer’ than polls suggest

By Colby Itkowitz

The Biden campaign is warning supporters not to let the Democrat’s sizable national polling advantage over Trump lull them into a false sense of security that the race is over.

In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon urged supporters to “campaign like we’re trailing” heading into the final weeks of the election.

“We cannot become complacent because the very searing truth is that Donald Trump can still win this race, and every indication we have shows that this thing is going to come down to the wire,” Dillon wrote.

Dillon encouraged supporters to use 2016 as a reminder that polling can be wrong and that it all comes down to who can secure the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, reflecting national polls, Trump won an electoral college victory by winning several Midwestern states that previously had gone to the Democrats.

In key battleground states, Dillon wrote, the “race is far closer than some of the punditry we’re seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest.”

“While we see robust leads at the national level, in the states we’re counting on to carry us to victory like Arizona and North Carolina we’re only up by three points.” she said. “We also know that even the best polling can be wrong, and that variables like turnout mean that in a number of critical states we are functionally tied — and that we need to campaign like we’re trailing.”

She also warned that there’s no telling what the Trump campaign might do in the final stretch, writing “we cannot underestimate Donald Trump or his ability to claw his way back into contention in the final days of a campaign, through whatever smears or underhanded tactics he has at his disposal.”

Dillion said the campaign expects to raise an additional $234 million before Election Day, a large sum especially after just reporting a record shattering $383 million raised in September. But Dillion said the money is essential to blanket the 17 states considered most competitive.

“And every dollar we fall short of those goals.” she wrote, “is a missed opportunity to turn out supporters or communicate our closing message in a race that could come down to a handful of votes.

3:09 p.m.
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Sen. Perdue called out for mocking Sen. Kamala Harris’s first name, echoing Trump

By Meryl Kornfield
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) spoke at a rally for President Trump on Oct. 16 in Macon, Ga., before the president took the stage. (The Washington Post)

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Friday drew the condemnation of his opponent and other Democrats after mispronouncing the first name of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the senator’s colleague of nearly four years.

“This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members in the Senate,” Democrat Jon Ossoff said in an interview with Joy Reid on MSNBC.

Speaking before the president arrived at a campaign rally in Macon, Ga., Perdue said, “Ka-MA-la, KA-ma-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever,” seeming to pause for a smattering of laughs. His campaign wrote in a statement that Perdue “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’s name, and he didn’t mean anything by it” — despite calls that the mix-up was purposeful.

Other Democratic colleagues weren’t buying it. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) tweeted: “He knows her name. There are only 100 of us. And he thinks he can get by with this. Georgia, show him he can’t.”

2:55 p.m.
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Biden vows more clarity on expanding the Supreme Court is coming soon

By Sean Sullivan

Biden said in a television interview that he plans to make his views on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court known publicly “in the next several days,” and his comments will be pegged to a vote in the Senate on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m going to make clear my position in the next several days when they vote on this nominee,” Biden told Fox 2 in Detroit on Friday. He added, “I will lay out exactly what my view is.”

Biden’s comments built on his remarks in a Thursday town hall hosted by ABC News, in which he signaled for the first time that he would take a position before the Nov. 3 election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has set up an Oct. 22 vote on Barrett’s nomination, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will begin full Senate consideration of her confirmation the following day. The schedule suggests a final vote on it could come Oct. 27.

For now, Biden said, the focus should be on Republican efforts to confirm Barrett on the eve of the election, a move Democrats roundly oppose.

The anger with the Republican strategy has prompted a renewed Democratic debate about whether party leaders should respond by adding more seats to the court and seek to fill them with liberal justices, should they have control of Congress and the White House next year.

Biden suggested that he might embrace other reforms aside from expanding the court, which he opposed in the primary. But he was vague and did not specify what alternatives he might embrace.

“I’ve not been a fan of packing the court. But what might happen is that we have to take a look at how this all works out to determine whether there’s other means by which we should take a look at how to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” he said.

2:17 p.m.
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Dispatch from Massachusetts: Early voting begins with line in Walpole

By Douglas Moser

WALPOLE, Mass. — As a cold rain knocked yellow and crimson leaves out of the trees, voters in this town south of Boston headed out first thing Saturday morning to line up at the start of early voting in Massachusetts.

Hours varied at polling places across the state: Some opened as early as 8 a.m., while others will open at noon.

In Walpole, a town of about 25,000, a socially distanced line of masked voters threaded from the voting room as the polls opened.

“I’m a nurse, and I work on Election Day, 12 hours,” Kim Donna, a Trump supporter, said as she waited in line to vote.

A majority of Walpole voters went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but it and surrounding communities have a conservative streak — former senator Scott Brown (R) was from nearby Wrentham — and support for Trump is stronger here than in many parts of the state.

Donna and others in line said Trump was doing a good job, especially in the face of what they characterized as a media onslaught against him. She said no one could have done anything about the coronavirus pandemic and credited the president for trying to keep the economy going and the stock market rising.

“My retirement is still doing okay,” she said.

Donna said she thinks Massachusetts does a good job administering elections, but said “media hype” surrounding the election made her worry. “I have faith it’ll be administered well, not confidence. I’ll put it that way,” she said.

The line at Walpole Town Hall lessened like the morning rain, but people continued to trickle in.

Massachusetts extended its early voting calendar over the summer to give people more options for voting amid the smoldering coronavirus pandemic, which is starting to intensify here for the first time since early spring.

Voters now have two weeks of early voting, and can request absentee ballots, to be mailed or hand delivered, without needing an excuse.

Walpole Town Clerk Elizabeth Gaffey said voters usually trickled in at a regular pace through early voting, culminating in a crush on the last day, but the line first thing on the first day was unusual.

“This is the first time early in the morning they were champing at the bit,” she said.

1:49 p.m.
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Michigan appeals court reinstates Election Day deadline for mail ballots

By Elise Viebeck

A state appeals court in Michigan reinstated a rule that mail ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day to count, a victory for Republicans who have fought the extension of ballot deadlines during the coronavirus pandemic.

A panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 3 to 0 on Friday to reverse a lower court’s ruling that said ballots could be counted if they were postmarked before Election Day and received within 14 days. The extension would have made Michigan’s deadline one of the most generous in the country.

Friday’s ruling states that the pandemic and delays in delivery by the U.S. Postal Service do not significantly threaten the right to vote by mail. The three-judge panel also reinstated restrictions on third-party ballot collection in the days immediately preceding the election.

“We conclude that [the] restrictions are reasonable and nondiscriminatory and that the restrictions are warranted to further an important regulatory interest: protecting against voter fraud,” the ruling stated.

Michigan’s majority-Republican legislature brought the appeal with support from the Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel praised the decision in a tweet as “great news for election integrity,” adding that Republicans are “fighting back against Democrats — and winning!”

Plaintiffs in the case said they plan to appeal.

“We are disappointed by the Appeals Court decision and we are prepared to appeal,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, one of the groups that brought the case. “We continue to believe that all voters, especially seniors who need to stay in place, whose mail ballots are delayed for reasons beyond their control should have their ballots counted.”

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, which funded the lawsuit, said the decision “runs contrary to the right of every American to make their voices heard in our elections.”

“It is shameful that Michigan Republicans continue to waste public resources on their attempts to prevent their own constituents from exercising their right to vote,” he said in a statement.