A Michigan Sheriff Won't Enforce Open Carry Ban At Election Polls

On October 16, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson banned the open carry firearms at voting locations, clerk’s offices, and absent voting counting boards on Election Day, November 3 to ensure safety and thwart 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,” Benson said. “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.”

The ruling left some sheriffs upset and said they have no plans to enforce the open can ban at the polls. Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel called Benson’s guidance “illegal.”

“She doesn’t have the authority to make laws,” Schendel said.

Benson sent the guidance to clerks earlier this month, days after members of two anti-government paramilitary groups were charged with taking part in plotting the kidnapping of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The open carry rule doesn’t apply to in-person early voting and concealed guns will still be allowed, except if the polling place is at a church or school, where firearms are banned.

Some elections officials and voter rights experts have been concerned about violence at the polls.

Election workers have been told to contact the authorities if the ban is violated.

The Michigan Sheriff’s Association has asked sheriffs to consult local prosecutors. Schendel is among several law enforcement officers statewide who say they won’t enforce the ban.

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan State Police Director Col. Joe Gasper have joined with Benson to ensure the ban will be enforced statewide.

“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,” Nessel said. “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.”

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