In a memo released on Friday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson noted that the law is not clear on whether or not the state’s so-called “open carry” laws — which otherwise allow people to openly display a weapon as long as they have lawful intent — extend to places where individuals can vote, count ballots, or otherwise carry out an election.
Benson told local officials that it will not be allowed. Specifically, she cited fears of voter intimidation.
“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,” the memo said in part.
Similarly, in a statement, she noted that she is making sure that law enforcement is aware of the guidelines.
“Michigan voters are safe and secure when voting by informing local law enforcement agencies and ensuring that the ban on openly carried firearms is enforced statewide,” read a statement from her office.
However, Joey Roberts, president of Michigan Open Carry, rejected Benson’s missive, saying she does not have the authority to unilaterally issue such a ban.
“We don’t see walking in and voting with an open carry pistol as voter intimidation,” Roberts said, adding that a potential lawsuit is “being discussed.”
Rep. Triston Cole, a Mancelona Republican, is also concerned about the constitutionality of the ban, stating on Facebook that it’s another example of Democrats “want[ing] to take your guns and your Second Amendment rights away.”
In Michigan and elsewhere, the potential for voter intimidation on November 3 is being looked at as a very real possibility, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. The organization noted that President Donald Trump has explicitly urged his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
In Auglaize County, Ohio, Michelle Wilcox, the director of elections, has recruited the help of the sheriff to help train poll workers, marking the first time this was required. Elsewhere in Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose took the step of pointing out specifically that voter intimidation is expressly prohibited in his state.
Other states are reminding voters of so-called “buffer zones” — specific spaces where electioneering is prohibited around polling places.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, last week federal authorities thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.