Daily Briefs

Michigan AG to probe group seeking to repeal governor powers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s attorney general opened an investigation Monday into allegations that a ballot group may have committed crimes while gathering signatures to repeal a law that gives Gov. Gretchen Whitmer broad powers to manage the coronavirus crisis.

Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said her office will probe Unlock Michigan, a Republican-affiliated committee that plans to submit its signatures Friday. If the group turns in enough — it needs 340,000 valid signatures — the initiative will go to the Legislature.

Majority Republicans could enact the measure into law, and it could not be vetoed by the Democratic governor. Whitmer has used the 1945 law to continually extend a state of emergency, the underpinning of her sweeping orders that restrict business operations, limit gathering sizes and require masks in public.

The Detroit Free Press has reported on deceptive, potentially illegal tactics engaged by people who were hired to gather signatures. The League of Women Voters and John Pirich, a retired election lawyer, subsequently wrote letters seeking an investigation.

“Our ballot initiative process allows efforts with strong public support to be presented to the Legislature. But that process becomes tainted when petition circulators manipulate and cheat to serve their own agendas,” Nessel, who has supported Whitmer’s use of emergency powers, said in a statement.

Fred Wszolek, spokesman for Unlock Michigan, called the probe “a partisan political farce, which is to be expected from this partisan political attorney general.”

The Free Press, citing a secretly recorded video, reported last week that a company coached paid petition circulators on giving voters false information, illegally collecting signatures without witnessing them, trespassing on private property and even lying under oath.


State says racial disparities of virus have diminished

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan reported Monday that Black residents are no longer being disproportionately infected and killed by the coronavirus, after they accounted for a staggering 40% of deaths and 29% of cases in the early days of the pandemic.

For the last two available weeks of data, African-Americans represented 10% of COVID-19 deaths and 8% of cases. They comprise about 15% of the state’s population.

They still account for at least 38% of confirmed and probable deaths overall, and at least 20% of cases. Some patients’ race is not always reported.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II chairs a state task force that is addressing virus-related racial disparities. He credited people of color for being more likely to wear masks and follow safety guidelines, and said the disparities’ downward trend has been holding for at least a month.

“We still need to be careful as we come into the fall, as we come into the flu season,” he told The Associated Press. “But thanks to the state of Michigan paying attention to this issue, prioritizing this issue — we have the most muscular response to racial disparities in the country — we can say that those disparities have flattened. That’s a testament to people of Michigan and the work of the experts on the task force.”


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