Michigan won't allow open carry of guns near polls on Nov. 3

By Anna Liz Nichols
Associated Press/ Report for America

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan will not allow people to openly carry guns at or near polling places on Election Day in an effort to limit voter intimidation, the state’s top election official said Friday.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent the guidance to clerks just over a week after members of two anti-government paramilitary groups were charged with taking part in plotting the kidnapping of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Some of the men were charged under federal law and others under state law.

Benson’s announcement also comes as some elections officials and voter rights experts nationwide are concerned about violence at the polls as a divided electorate votes in one of the most contentious elections in U.S. history. Also, President Donald Trump has been urging his supporters to go to the polls and “watch very carefully,” raising concerns about possible voter intimidation.

“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” said Benson. “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.”

Benson said people would not be allowed to openly carry firearms within 100 feet of polling places on Nov. 3. That rule does not apply to in-person early voting, which is already underway, and concealed guns will still be allowed, except if the polling place is at a church or school, where firearms are banned.

“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,” Benson’s guidance said. “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.”

State law enforcement, including Col. Joe Gasper of the Michigan State Police, supports Benson, according to a media release.

“Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day free from threat and intimidation,” Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in the release. “An armed presence at the polls is inconsistent with our notion of a free democracy.”

Election inspectors must post signs alerting voters of the prohibition, according to the guidance. Firearms can be left in vehicles parked within 100 feet of buildings.



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