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Our panel of experts will be analyzing voting controversies until the 2020 winners are clear.
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Michigan bans open carry of firearms in polling places on Election Day

Four ways to combat voter intimidation without unintended consequences

There's growing concern across the United States that some overzealous partisans may stake out polling locations to intimidate voters. On live national television, President Trump infamously asked the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," a reference some white supremacists took as a call to action. The president's son Donald Trump Jr. has taken to social media to call for an "army for Trump" election-security operation, which would show up in person at polling places to "help us watch" the opposition. Last week, news broke that. Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, had been the target of a kidnapping plot among energized militia members.

Intimidating voters is a federal crime, and law enforcement officials around the country are on high alert. While vigilance to ensure that every eligible voter can vote safely is necessary, a visible police presence at the polls would be a serious mistake because it can have the unintended consequence of being intimidating in its own right and suppressing lawful voting.

Here's a better approach:

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Ian Tuttle/Getty Images

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg gave the Center for Tech and Civic Life $250 million to distribute through grants.

Debate, and more suits, sparked by spurt of private funds for election costs

This is the latest illustration of how far the discord over the presidential election has gone:

Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic that's claimed more than 200,000 lives, and created unprecedented health risks and other complications for voting, Congress and the Trump administration deadlocked after allocating just 10 percent of the $4 billion both red and blue states are begging for to assure the nation's central democratic exercise is safe, comprehensive and trustworthy during the pandemic.

But once wealthy benefactors started stepping in to help — led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who pledged $300 million a month ago for such anodyne uses as buying disinfectant and hiring poll workers — their effort almost immediately got embroiled in the most litigated election in American history.

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Handout/Getty Images

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked for the new Michigan law allowing poll workers to start opening mailed ballots ahead of Election Day.

Partisan twists in four key states help keep ballot rules in limbo

The end of a week that brought the country within 40 days of the election included a smorgasbord of legal developments underscoring how the rules governing the coming surge of mailed votes are far from finalized.

The Republican lieutenant governor asked the Justice Department to investigate North Carolina's brand new easements on absentee voting. A federal appeals court revived witness requirements on ballots mailed in South Carolina. Philadelphia's top election official asked Pennsylvania to scratch at the last minute a requirement for returning such ballots inside secrecy envelopes. And Michigan decided to give local clerks a small head start on processing absentee ballots.

The series of moves Thursday were the latest in the pitched partisan battle over mail-in voting. The first two reflect the Republican effort to make the rules tougher, while the other two reflect the Democratic view that those rules should be simpler.

These are the details:

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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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