Michigan election officials announced Friday that the state is banning the open carry of firearms at or near polling sites on Election Day, NBC reported.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement to polling officials that guns will be prohibited near polling to protect against voter intimidation, according to NBC. (RELATED: Amnesty International Calls On Governors To Ban Guns Near Polling Sites)
“The open carry of a firearm is prohibited in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located,” the new guidance said. “Outside of 100 feet of a polling place, if any person is acting in a way that would tend to intimidate, hinder or impede voters on the way to the polls, election inspectors should immediately contact law enforcement.”
But the guidance says, with the proper licenses, a person may leave their firearm in a vehicle if over 100 feet from the polling site.
Michigan bans the open carry of guns inside or near polling places on Election Day over fears of voter intimidation. https://t.co/lhMMpP69pJ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 16, 2020
“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson said in a statement, per NBC. “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’s statement said she will be working with the Michigan attorney general and state police director, Col. Joe Gasper, to ensure statewide enforcement, the NBC report added.
“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,” said Gasper, per NBC. (RELATED: Trump Reverses On Right-Wing Proud Boys Group, Tells Them To ‘Stand Down’)
State leaders, including Republican Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, criticized Benson’s decision and suggested she divert resources to other election issues, according to The Detroit News.
“The majority leader wishes the secretary would put effort into reducing wait times for people trying to renew their driver’s licenses, but we recognize her actual job is not as attention-grabbing as making up firearm policies less than 20 days before an election,” Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann said Friday per the Detroit News.
Livingston County, Michigan, Sheriff Mike Murphy said he will not enforce the law, the Detroit News added. Murphy said he did not enforce Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic order either.
“An order is an order and, quite frankly, is unenforceable,” he said. “They have no authority to supersede law.”
There are 1,600 election officials, 30,000 election inspectors and 8 million registered voters in Michigan, according to the guidance.