Michigan overturns ban on open carry of guns at polling stations

State secretary due to appeal ruling amid concerns at voter intimidation next week

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 28 October 2020 16:47 GMT
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Louise Thomas

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A Michigan judge has reversed a state directive banning the open carrying of firearms at or near polling stations on Election Day.

Judge Christopher Murray, who made the decision on Tuesday, sided with gun-rights advocates, and ruled against Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, who introduced the ban.

She had argued that the ban on firearms would prevent voter intimidation and harassment when people vote in-person on 3 November.

But, according to Mr Murray’s ruling, the directive did not follow proper procedure for extending existing laws, and was not enforceable.

“The court’s duty is not to act as an overseer of the Department of State,” he wrote. “Nor is it to impose its view on the wisdom of openly carrying firearms at polling places or other election locations,”

“More importantly, its constitutional role is properly limited to only declaring what the law is, not what it should be.”

State attorney general Dana Nessel, a Democrat, vowed to immediately appeal the ruling, saying: "This issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process."

“As the state’s chief election officer, I have a sworn duty to protect every voter and their right to cast their ballot free from intimidation and harassment,” Benson said in a statement to Michigan Live. “I will continue to protect that right in Michigan, and we will be appealing this ruling,” she added.

The judge added that existing state laws already banned voter intimidation "with or without a firearm," and that those bans were specific to some locations which typically serve as voting sites.

Under Ms Benson’s directive, no person would be permitted to carry guns within 100 feet (30 m) of any voting or vote-counting location.

Michigan-based gun owners groups had challenged the decree as an abuse of authority and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent its enforcement.

The court battle comes after revelations that armed extremists had plotted to kidnap Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who is a Democrat.

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