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Michigan secretary of state prohibits open carry of guns at voting locations

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 polling place.

LANSING, Mich. — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued direction Friday to local clerks statewide clarifying that the open carry of firearms on Election Day in polling places, clerk’s offices, and absent voter counting boards is prohibited on Election Day, November 3, 2020.

“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” said Benson. “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.”

Secretary Benson issued the directive this morning to all clerks stating in a press release that, “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. 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.”

In her role as Michigan’s Chief Elections Officer, with supervisory control over local election officials and how they perform their duties, the Benson directed that 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 were a polling place is location.

RELATED: How to find your polling place in Michigan

Attorney General Dana Nessel offered her full support of Benson's direction and said in the press release, “Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day 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.”

The Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Michigan State Police are working together to ensure uniform enforcement of these requirements. In addition, the Attorney General and Michigan State Police will issue accompanying guidance to law enforcement on safety and security issues that could potentially impact the November 3rd, election.

A full copy of the Secretary's guidance can be found here.

Voters who witness or experience intimidation or other unlawful conduct at the polls should immediately report this to an election worker or official and document the experience as clearly as possible. If in immediate danger, voters should call 911 prior to informing an election worker or official.  

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