The state of Michigan will ban the open carry of guns at all polling locations on Election Day in order to allow residents to vote without fear or intimidation.
Michigan is considered an “open carry” state, which means that there’s no legal repercussions for carrying a weapon in public areas in many circumstances, unless otherwise proscribed by law. The new guidance forbidding the carrying of weapons at polling places comes from the office of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
“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 guidance states.
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Multiple agencies, including the attorney general’s office and the Michigan State Police, will reportedly work together to ensure the order is followed at every polling place in the state.
“I am committed to ensuring all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment,” Benson said in a statement. “Prohibiting the open carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected.”
Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel expressed similar sentiments in a separate statement.
“Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day free from threat and intimidation,” Nessel said. “An armed presence at the polls is inconsistent with our notion of a free democracy.”
The new rules forbidding open carry at election sites comes a week after it was announced that federal officials had thwarted a plot by Michigan militia members to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan). Those involved in the plot had planned to abduct Whitmer at her summer vacation home using explosives to distract police, and then to transport her to Wisconsin in order to stand trial for treason in a kangaroo court set up by themselves.
Many have suggested that rhetoric from President Donald Trump may have inspired the group. In April, Trump tweeted out “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in response to Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules that were implemented in Michigan in order to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Whitmer herself cited Trump’s words after the thwarted plot was announced to the public.
“Each time he has tweeted about me, each time that he has said ‘liberate Michigan’ and said I should negotiate with the very people who are arrested because they’re ‘good people,’ that incites more domestic terror,” she said.
Trump has also encouraged voters across the country to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” — comments that many have said are a thinly-veiled message to supporters to intimidate voters during the election.
Trump shared a tweet earlier this month that included an image reading “Fight for President Trump!” while requesting people sign up to be poll watchers. His son, Donald Trump Jr., has also asked supporters to join an “army” for his father’s “election security operation.”