Michigan bans open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day

Jocelyn Benson
In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a news conference in Lansing, Mich

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson banned the open carry of firearms within "100 feet of a polling place, clerk's offices, or absent voter counting board" on election day. 

"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 said in a press release on Friday. Benson, who is considered the state's chief election officer, added that she is working with state and local law enforcement in order to carry out the mandate. 

This ban comes a little over a week after federal prosecutors charged multiple men who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and while voters' concerns about intimidation and violence on election day ramp up.   

Whitmer has criticized the Trump administration's response to security threats and has stated that President Donald Trump is  "complicit" to domestic terrorists and "legitimizes their actions." Far-right agitators have expressed fury over Whitmer's statewide lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of people — many of them armed — descending on the state capitol to protest earlier this year. In the spring, Trump made a series of tweets calling for US states in lockdown to "liberate" themselves, which was heralded by far-right social media as a sign of support. 

The group of accused men has a history of ties to extremist militia movements, and one of them was identified by NBC News as a member of a public Facebook group called "Open Michigan." FBI Special Agent Richard Trask testified on Friday, however, that the genesis of the kidnapping plot had occurred prior to Trump's tweets.  

Meanwhile, safety at polling sites continues to be a prevalent concern. A report from the bipartisan Transition Integrity Project stated: "The potential for violent conflict is high, particularly since Trump encourages his supporters to take up arms."

Election inspectors will post signage that indicates the notice of a ban on open carrying firearms in the polling places, clerk's offices, and absent voter counting boards, according to the press release. 

 

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