The state of Michigan is prohibiting the open carry of guns at polling places, clerk’s offices and similar locations on Election Day.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the new guidance early on Friday amid fears of voter intimidation during the Nov. 3 election. The decision has prompted criticism from Second Amendment advocates.
“The presence of firearms at the polling places, clerk’s offices, or absent voter counting boards may cause disruption, fear or intimidation for voters, election workers and others present,” the new guidance says. Additionally, it goes on to prohibit the open carry of guns inside all state polling places, hallways voters use to enter or exit, and within 100 feet of any entrance to a polling place.
The announcement comes in light of nationwide concerns about security at polling locations. Meanwhile, in Michigan, tensions are especially high. 13 people have charges in a domestic terror plot to storm the state’s Capitol. The group had made plans to kidnap the state’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
Six of those individuals are facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Two of the suspects were openly carrying weapons during anti-lockdown protests at the Capitol in the Spring.
“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson said. “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.”
Rep. Triston Cole Criticizes the New Guidance
However, Rep. Triston Cole, who serves as the Republican House floor leader, made clear that he criticizes the decision. Cole says the decision reflects future policy should Biden wins the presidency.
“This is an in your face unconstitutional ban,” Cole said in a Facebook post. “These areas ARE NOT designated ‘gun free zones.’ Yes, Democrats want to take your guns and your Second Amendment rights away.”
The new election guidelines also say that outside of 100 feet of a polling place, election inspectors should contact police. “if any person is acting in a way that would tend to intimidate, hinder or impede voters on the way to the polls,”
With this in mind, voters may leave firearms inside their vehicles if they are parked within 100 feet of the buildings.
Further, Friday’s newly-announced guidance only applies to Election Day itself. It’s a day where long lines and large crowds will be gathering across the state.