Michigan’s secretary of state wants voters to leave their guns at home this Election Day — or at least keep them 100 feet from any building containing polling places.
On Friday, Jocelyn Benson issued guidance directed at local election officials clarifying that the open carry of guns on Election Day in, or close to, any voting locations — polling places, clerk’s offices and absent voter counting boards — is banned.
“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,” according to the directive.
The measures were taken to ensure “fair, free and secure elections [which] are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson said in a news release.
“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,” she added.
According to Benson, the presence of firearms at such locations could 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,” she said.
Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said Friday that the guidance is useless in improving public safety.
“Any criminal or agitator intent on committing an illegal act isn’t going to pay attention to this directive,” Hunter said, according to The Detroit News. “Therefore, this ill-conceived action only eradicates the right to self-defense by law-abiding Michiganders,” she added.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that the directive will let voters exercise their right “free from threat and intimidation.”
“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,” Nessel said in a statement.
Worries of possible intimidation by some voters have been exacerbated by recent comments made by President Donald Trump, who has told his supporters that Democrats might “steal” the elections.
Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud have mobilized many among his passionate base, who have been urged by the Trump campaign “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
His campaign has repeatedly called for an “army” of poll watchers to monitor the election in some areas. The ArmyForTrump website enlists “President Trump’s army of supporters fighting to re-elect him in 2020.”
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