US Election: Michigan voters banned from carrying guns to polling booths

The order was given by state officials on Friday.
The order was given by state officials on Friday. Photo credit: Getty

Michigan will prohibit the open carrying of firearms at polling stations, clerk's offices and other places where absentee ballots are tabulated to prevent voter intimidation, state officials said on Friday (local time).

The order, from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, applies to election day, on November 3, and prohibits a firearm within 30 metres of any voting or counting location.

"Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected," Benson said in a statement.

In Michigan, the secretary of state oversees state elections. Benson gave the order to the state's 1600 election officials, with state Attorney General Dana Nessel and the head of the state police, Colonel Joe Gasper, also joining her.

President Donald Trump, who is trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in public opinion polls, has called on his supporters to act as ad-hoc poll watchers, which some Democrats and nonpartisan election experts called an oblique call for illegal voter intimidation.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees citizens the right to bear arms, though various states have imposed restrictions.

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. Photo credit: Getty

Michigan is an open carry state, meaning a firearm can be carried in public by its lawful owner without a permit, though that does not apply to churches, schools, libraries, hospitals and a handful of other public spaces.

Benson, in consultation with Nessel, issued the order after reviewing the state's existing laws on gun rights and voter intimidation, drawing a parallel with regulations prohibiting photography in Michigan polling locations, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state said.

The order makes no mention of concealed carry of a firearm. It comes as gun rights and free speech have started to clash this year in anti-racism demonstrations and political events, with some experts worrying US democracy will suffer if guns intimidate would-be protesters from voicing their opinion.