Openly displaying firearms will be prohibited at all Michigan polls on Election Day, the state’s top election official announced Friday, as concerns of potential violence around the election continued to rise in the state and across the country.
Michigan has permissive open-carry laws, and the official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, had recently been pressed about scenarios in which supporters of President Trump could show up at polls brandishing firearms, especially after the president called for an “army” of poll watchers nationwide and alerted a group associated with white supremacy, the Proud Boys, to “stand by.”
“Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected,” Ms. Benson said in a statement.
More than a dozen far-right extremists were arrested last week and accused by the F.B.I. of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and overthrow the government.
Two of the arrested men were among those who carried military-style rifles inside the State Capitol in April to protest Ms. Whitmer’s lockdown orders to limit the coronavirus. Mr. Trump seemed to egg the protesters on in a tweet, writing, “Liberate Michigan!”
Ms. Benson’s announcement said that Michigan’s attorney general and State Police director would enforce the ban.
While poll watching by representatives of political parties is permitted in Michigan, as in other states, intimidating or deterring voters is a felony. Ms. Benson’s order, sent to election clerks statewide, clarifies that the open carry of a firearm falls within that realm.
Under the order, 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 in which a polling place is located.