Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Friday that openly carrying a weapon into a polling place, or within 100 feet of an entrance to a polling place, will be prohibited for the Nov. 3 general election.
“Fair, free and secure elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Benson stated in a press 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.”
Mason County Clerk Cheryl Kelly alerted local media outlets about the guidance that was issued by Benson. Kelly noted that open-carry did take place during the 2016 election season “in some of our polling locations.”
Mason County Undersheriff Derrek Wilson said the sheriff’s office plans to have more deputies out on patrol for Election Day.
“I think we’re gearing up for record numbers at our polling locations,” Wilson said. “We’ll put some deputies on overtime with extra cars on the road. We’ll have people out checking on polling sites and being visible. We’ll keep the peace and smile and wave. We want people to get their vote out there.”
Wilson said it was good for the public to know about the open-carry prohibitions at polling places ahead of Nov. 3.
“The No. 1 deterrent in our country is a uniformed officer and a marked patrol car… Educating people is important, (too). I think the majority who are carrying (a firearm) are doing that legally. As law enforcement, we can advise them of what they can do and can’t do,” Wilson said.
Benson, in the release, stated that the presence of firearms “may cause disruption, fear or intimidation for voters, election workers and others present.”
The Secretary of State’s office stated that firearms are not permitted not only in the polling place, but also 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. Attorney General Dana Nessel, in the same release, stated her support of Benson’s plan.
“Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day free from threat and intimidation,” Nessel stated in the release. “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.”
“Michiganders should know that law enforcement across multiple levels is working together to ensure that anyone who wishes to exercise their right to vote in-person on election day can do so safely and without the threat of intimidation,” stated Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police.
Benson, Nessel and the Michigan State Police are working together to ensure uniform enforcement of these requirements, the release stated.
In addition, Nessel and Michigan State Police plan to issue accompanying guidance to law enforcement on safety and security issues that could potentially impact the Nov. 3 general election.