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AP
'Raw exposed nerves': Anxious nation awaits Election Day

WARREN, Mich. (AP) — She could have dropped her ballot at the post office, but she wasn’t sure if she should trust the mail. She considered slipping it into the secured box outside City Hall, but what if something happened? A fire maybe.

This year has delivered so many shocks that anything seemed possible. So 58-year-old Diane Spiteri trudged up three flights of steps to place her absentee ballot straight into the hands of the clerk in this battleground suburb of Detroit.

As the traditional Election Day closes in, Americans are exhausted from constant crises, on edge because of volatile political divisions and anxious about what will happen next. Their agony is not in deciding between President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Most made that choice long ago. Instead, voters arriving in record numbers to cast early ballots say basic democratic foundations feel brittle: Will their vote count? Will the loser accept the result? Will the winner repair a sick and unsettled nation?

“I just can’t wait until the whole thing is over. And I think it’s long from over, even after Tuesday. There’s just so much anxiety,” said Spiteri, who voted last week for Biden. “I am hoping that there wasn’t too much damage done in the last four years that it can’t be undone.”

Here in Macomb County and across the country, some have obsessively tracked polls to soothe their nerves, or bought guns, or researched moving abroad, or retreated to a cabin in the woods. Tension has ratcheted up, as each side believes the other is threatening to usher in the end of America as we know it.

“Our country is in a state of chaos,” said Roberta Henderson, as she deposited her ballot in Sterling Heights, Michigan. She voted Trump in 2016. But she grew tired of his divisiveness. This time, she voted for Biden.

A nation already uncertain about its future amid a worsening pandemic and a national reckoning on racism is now contemplating the added threat of clashes in the wake of Election Day.

In Texas, vehicles festooned with Trump flags swarmed a Biden campaign bus. Weeks ago, a group of men were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor. Gun sales have skyrocketed. Trump refused to promise a peaceful transfer of power.

About 7 in 10 voters say they are anxious about the election, an AP-NORC poll found. Biden supporters were more likely than Trump voters to be nervous — 72% to 61%.

But Trump’s supporters, too, said they feel a sense of dread. The president has warned that if he loses crime would consume the streets and freedom would buckle under political correctness.

“If we let that other guy in, all hell is going to break loose,” said Dan Smith, 53, in Norfolk, Virginia. He’s supporting Trump because he’s concerned about “law and order.”

As the coronavirus crisis surges to more than 230,000 dead, the election for many is a referendum on how Trump has handled the pandemic. Many of his supporters say they find no fault in his response.

In New Albany, Ohio, Jason Baker, 44, said that he and his family all had COVID-19 two months ago, still he voted for Trump. He believes the pandemic has “been highly politized to the point where it’s disgusting.”

But Theresa McGarity in Mount Clemens, Michigan, lost her mother to COVID at 76 years old.

AP 

Theresa McGarity, whose mother, Carolyn Wilson, died of COVID-19, looks out over lights placed on pairs of shoes representing residents in Macomb County who died from the pandemic during an art installation vigil in Mount Clemens, Mich., Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. "I guess because it hit home, it's not political anymore. It's a plain, simple right and wrong," said McGarity, who already cast a ballot for Biden. "When someone in leadership is aware of something that could flip your whole world upside down and they don't inform you. And you have the right to vote to change that, shame on you if you don't."

“I guess because it hit home, it’s not political anymore. It’s a plain, simple right and wrong,” said McGarity, who voted for Biden. “When someone in leadership is aware of something that could flip your whole world upside down and they don’t inform you. And you have the right to vote to change that, shame on you if you don’t.”

Trump has alleged that widespread absentee voting will lead to fraud, though there is no evidence to support that claim.

In Macomb County, Terry Frandle plans to vote in person on Election Day.

“I just don’t trust anything anymore,” he said.

AP 

Trump supporter Terry Frandle checks his mailbox in his front yard decorated for Halloween and a Trump reelection campaign in Saint Clair Shores, Mich., Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. In Macomb County, Frandle hung Trump banners outside his house and noticed that neighbors who used to stop to chat crossed to the other side of the street, not even offering a "hello." Some drivers wave, some flip the bird. He doesn't blame Trump for the discord, he blames Democrats and the media for failing to give Trump a fair shake, he said. He plans to vote in person on Election Day. "I just don't trust anything anymore," he said, except for what he hears directly from Trump.

He hung Trump banners outside his house and noticed neighbors who used to stop to chat crossed the street. He doesn’t blame Trump for the discord — he blames the media for failing to give Trump a fair shake, he said.

On the other side of the aisle, too, people are grappling with political tension.

In the Chicago suburbs, Phyllis Delrosario, 73, said her mood vacillates from excitement to depression. She researched moving to another country if Trump is reelected.

“I just feel like I’m this raw exposed nerve all the time, and the anxiety of all this and the chaos of ‘what’s he going to destroy next?’” she said.

Trump at a recent debate declined to clearly condemn white supremacy. He told a far-right group to “stand back and stand by.”

As a Black woman, Charlotte Moss, 64, of Oakland County, Michigan, had become increasingly concerned about emboldened militant groups.

She had never owned a gun, but about a month ago, bought one. She took a class at the Detroit chapter of the National African American Gun Association. Chad King started the club in 2017, and it’s grown to 210 members. In the weeks before the election, he scheduled two courses on deescalating tense situations. They sold out in three days.

Michelle McDonald got chills when she submitted her early ballot for Biden in Macomb County last week.

AP Photo/David Goldman 

Michelle McDonald fills out her absentee ballot at the city clerk’s office in Warren, Mich., Wed.

She was anxious as she walked into the clerk’s office, but as she walked out she felt something different: hope.

“I did my part,” she said. “I have faith that no matter what happens things are going to get better. God has us all.”

——

Associated Press journalists Sharon Cohen in Chicago; Georgia; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; and Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.


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A ballot is scanned into new voting equipment at the Canyon County Elections office in Caldwell, Thursday, March 5, 2020.


Local
Mayor Lauren McLean names Boise's fire chief - and he wasn't one of the previous 2 finalists
  • Updated

BOISE — Boise Mayor Lauren McLean on Monday announced her hire for the person to lead the Boise Fire Department — and it wasn’t one of the two finalists the city had previously identified.

Meridian’s Emergency Operations Manager Mark Niemeyer will begin serving as Boise Fire Chief on Nov. 30, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.

Previously, the city had narrowed its search to two candidates — Adrian Sheppard, the fire chief in Richmond, California; and Scott Walker, assistant fire chief in the Phoenix Fire Department. Niemeyer was not mentioned as a finalist, nor did he take part in an online panel during which Sheppard and Walker answered questions from the press and the public.

“After an extensive nationwide search to find the best candidate for Boise, it became clear that Boise’s best candidate is right here in the valley,” according to the release.

Seth Ogilve, spokesman for the mayor’s office, confirmed to the Idaho Press the office reached out to Niemeyer about the job. Niemeyer did not participate in a public forum during which Sheppard and Walker answered questions from the press and the public.

“The Chief was not included in the public forum because he did not initially apply and was not included in the recruitment process,” Ogilve wrote in an email to the Idaho Press. “That is why he was not one of the two finalists.”

Niemeyer served as Meridian’s fire chief for more than a decade. He was named emergency operations manager earlier this year to coordinate COIVD-19 response and resources in Meridian. Prior to joining the Meridian Fire Department, he spent 10 years working for the Ada County Paramedics.

Ogilve wrote it soon became clear to McLean Boiseans wanted a candidate like Niemeyer.

“At that point, the office reached out to him,” he wrote.

“I heard loud and clear that Boiseans wanted a leader with a commitment to our community, thorough knowledge of our department and the skills to lead and partner,” McLean said in a statement. “That person is Chief Niemeyer.”

“It has been an honor to lead the Meridian Fire Department the past 10 years,” Niemeyer said in an emailed statement. “The Fire Department and the City are a class act, and I appreciate everything the City has done for my family and me. The Meridian Fire Department is functioning very well, which made it a good time for me to step down. I’m looking forward to a new opportunity with the Boise Fire Department”.

Meridian Mayor Robert Simison wished Niemeyer “the best” in parting.

“I have worked with Chief Niemeyer for a long time and have great respect for the leadership he has provided to our community,” Simison wrote in a statement. “While I am sad to see him leave Meridian, having his presence in Idaho and the Treasure Valley can only build stronger relationships between Meridian and Boise and the services our departments provide for our residents. I wish Chief Niemeyer and his family the best in this new role and appreciate all the work he has done for the men and women of the Meridian Fire Department.”

Former Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan resigned his position earlier this year amid pressure from McLean, who took office in January.

Idaho Press reporter Blake Jones contributed.

Editor's note: Adrian Sheppard is the fire chief in Richmond, California. A previous version of this story contained the wrong state.