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Friday, October 16, 2020

Open carry of guns at polling places in Michigan is banned to limit voter intimidation

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2020 at 11:24 AM

click to enlarge Polling station in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Polling station in Detroit.

Michigan is banning the open carry of guns at polling places, clerk’s offices and absent voter counting boards on Election Day to allay fears of voter intimidation.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued the directive Friday as President Donald Trump urges supporters to show up to the polls as part of the campaign’s call for an “Army for Trump.” In some states with early voting, armed Trump supporters have shown up to the polls.

“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson said in a statement. “I am committed to ensuring all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment. Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Police Director Col. Joe Gasper are joining Benson to ensure that local law enforcement agencies enforce the Nov. 3 ban.

“Michiganders should know that law enforcement across multiple levels is working together to ensure that anyone who wishes to exercise their right to vote in-person on election day can do so safely and without the threat of intimidation,” Gasper said.

The directive that was issued to clerks reads, “The presence of firearms at the polling place, clerk’s office(s), or absent voter counting board may cause disruption, fear, or intimidation for voters, election workers, and others present. Absent clear standards, there is potential for confusion and uneven application of legal requirements for Michigan’s 1,600 election officials, 30,000 election inspectors, 8 million registered voters, and thousands of challengers and poll watchers on Election Day.”

The ban covers polling places, hallways used by voters, and anywhere within 100 feet of an entrance to a building where voting precincts are located.

“Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day free from threat and intimidation,” Nessel said. “An armed presence at the polls is inconsistent with our notion of a free democracy. I stand with the Secretary in her commitment to ensure that every eligible voter who wants to vote in person can do so safely and without fear or intimidation.”

People who witness voter intimidation or other unlawful conduct at the polls are asked to report the incident to an election worker. In the event of an emergency, Benson encourages voters to call 911 before informing an election worker.

You can learn more about different ways to vote on or before Tuesday, Nov. 3 with our voter guide.

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