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The State of Reform
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Ingham County Clerk

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum didn't think a retired plumber's joke about voting was funny.

Michigan election jokes? One's about a stool pigeon and a plumber. The other involves Trump.

Sometimes, for sanity's sake, you just have to laugh at what is happening in this crazy year of very serious debates over how our elections are going to be conducted.

Maybe these two related stories out of battleground Michigan in the last few days will help — although, be forewarned, one's a bit more overtly humorous than the other.

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Spending on this year's ballot measure efforts the highest in a decade

Ballot measure campaigns spent more money to qualify for the ballot this year than at any other time in the past decade.

The coronavirus is the reason. Gathering signatures for these measures was extraordinarily challenging, and only a few places changed their rules (or were forced to by the courts) to extend deadlines or to allow for online collection.

As a result, only 43 measures have qualified for the ballot in November, the smallest roster since 2014.

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Caroline Brehman/Getty Images

FEC Chairman Trey Trainor said the separation of church and state is a "fallacy."

Trump's FEC member says this election is a 'spiritual war'

The nation's newest campaign finance regulator is inserting himself into the never- ending debate about separating church and state, and causing a stir by accusing Roman Catholic bishops of hiding behind their church's nonprofit status to avoid endorsing candidates.

Trey Trainor, a Catholic who was confirmed for a long-vacant seat on the Federal Election Commission in May, also said in an interview with the conservative website Church Militant released on Wednesday (and a followup interview with the Religion News Service) that separation of church and state is a "fallacy" and that this year's election amounts to a "spiritual war."

None of these comments would appear to have any bearing on Trainor's role overseeing the federal rules that govern the flow of money into politics, but they quickly attracted criticism.

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Testifying to Congress, Director Christopher said social media platforms are working with the FBI to combat disinformation.

FBI director says Russian election meddling is now misinformation, not hacking

Russia has switched tactics for undermining American democracy this year, focusing on the spread of misinformation instead of computer hacking to influence the presidential contest, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday.

Moscow is using social media, online media outlets and other tools to spread misinformation and sow "divisiveness and discord" in the electorate in a bid to undermine confidence in the election, he said. And operatives have started using against Joe Biden many of the same techniques they deployed to spread falsities about Hillary Clinton four years ago.

The "malign foreign influence" campaign is designed not only "to denigrate" the Democratic nominee but also "what the Russians see as an anti-Russia establishment," Wray testified in one of the most explicit public descriptions yet of the Russian effort — one that almost totally contradicts the president's own descriptions about the foreign threat to the election.

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