DETROIT – People will not be allowed to openly carry firearms near polling stations, clerks’ offices or places where missing ballots are counted, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn said on Friday. Benson.
Benson included the ruling in guidelines sent to Michigan clerks as election officials brace for any effort to intimidate voters on election day, Nov. 3.
“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson said in a press release.
“I am committed to ensuring that all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment. Prohibiting the free carrying of firearms in areas where citizens vote is necessary to ensure the protection of every voter. “
The directive states that no one can openly carry a firearm within 100 feet of a polling station, clerk’s office or postal counting station. It requires clerks to post signs indicating the rule and to contact law enforcement in the event of a violation.
Further advice from the state to law enforcement on possible election day safety and security issues is expected shortly.
There are thousands of polling stations in the state, many of which are located in schools, churches or similar places. Although President Donald Trump has criticized postal voting and encouraged supporters to vote in person on election day, he also called for an “army” of supporters to monitor the ballot vote.
This has raised concerns about an increase in voter intimidation, especially in a state like Michigan which was only decided by 10,704 votes in 2016.
State Representative Beau LaFave, an outspoken Republican from Iron Mountain, blasted the decision.
Just the FAQ:Could a controversial election affect a peaceful transition of power?
Watch:Amy Coney Barrett asked about recusal if election result becomes Supreme Court case
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Secretary of State is playing these cheap political games. The idea that it must prevent people from exercising their Second Amendment rights in order for our elections to be safe and secure is absolutely false. Secretary Benson is scared to suppress voters, and it’s appalling, ”LaFave said.
LaFave said that “while some polling stations like churches and schools are already ‘gun-less’ zones under state status, with few exceptions, any unilateral action by the executive, secretary of state or the attorney general banning firearms in other polling stations is illegal. , inapplicable and a violation of citizens’ right to vote and their right to self-defense.
“No voter should be forced to choose between these basic principles. There is no way their ban will pass the constitutional test. I have no doubt that a lawsuit will be brought,” said LaFave.
The guidelines to clerks did not cite any specific part of Michigan law or any state rule that gives the Secretary of State the power to prohibit the open carrying of firearms.
No similar directive has been issued for the Michigan August 4 primary. Governor Gretchen Whitmer considered forcing people to wear masks if they voted in person for this election, but ultimately spoke out against such an order for fear of denying voters their rights.
A spokeswoman for Benson addressed questions to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. She later cited federal law that criminalizes voter intimidation, but did not clarify how this relates to the secretary’s power to ban open postponement on election day.
A spokesperson for Nessel also couldn’t point to a specific law that gives Benson the power to prohibit voters from openly carrying a firearm as required by law.
“Our office has studied the matter and we are confident in the advice provided to the secretary,” spokesman Ryan Jarvi said.
In Benson’s press release, Nessel said she fully supports Benson’s directive.
“Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on election day, without threats or intimidation. An armed presence at the polls is incompatible with our notion of a free democracy,” said Nessel.
“I support the secretary in her commitment to ensure that every eligible voter who wishes to vote in person can do so safely and without fear or intimidation.”
The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also said it supported Benson’s decision.
“The Supreme Court has long recognized that polling stations should be an ‘island of calm’ free from distraction and interference,” Michigan Executive Director Dave Noble said in a press release.
“Therefore, just as people are not allowed to carry signs or distribute political material within 100 feet of polling stations, people should not be allowed to openly carry arms.”
The general election takes place on November 3, but Michigan voters can apply and vote now.
Follow Dave Boucher on Twitter: @Dave_Boucher1.