(Reuters) – 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.
The order, from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, applies to Election Day, on Nov. 3, and prohibits a firearm within 100 feet (30 meters) 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 1,600 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 U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to bear arms, though various states have imposed restrictions.
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 to 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.
The order comes as gun rights and free speech have started to clash this year reuters.com/article/us-global-race-usa-guns-analysis/free-speech-gun-rights-on-collision-course-in-united-states-some-legal-experts-say-idUSKBN2621TX in anti-racism demonstrations and political events, with some experts worrying U.S. democracy will suffer if guns intimidate would-be protesters from voicing their opinion.
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Scott Malone and Tom Brown)