“The presence of firearms at the polling station, office or the absence of a voter counting commission can cause disruption, fear or intimidation of voters, voters and others present,” Benson said in a press release.
Benson continued, “I have a responsibility to ensure that all Michigan citizens are free to exercise their basic right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment. Prohibition of open firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure that every voter is protected.”; .
Friday’s instructions apply only to election day itself, when long queues and large crowds are expected across the state. Early voting in Michigan is limited to people handing in or filling out ballots for absences from election offices, and Benson’s instructions on firearms do not apply to these situations. Michigan police are expected to issue accompanying instructions to law enforcement.
Steve Doolan, a legal counsel for the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Weapon Owners, said he was “confident” there would be litigation over the directive.
“I do not know of any case law that defines the very presence of visible firearms as intimidation. In fact, we have a law that goes the opposite way in Michigan, that the mere presence of firearms does not interfere with peace,” Dulan said.
Asked why it is important for people to be able to carry firearms to polling stations on election day, Dulan said that “a large part of the population has decided that it is important for their safety to be armed. And this is a violation of that.”
However, according to a press release, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel supported the new instructions, noting that the directive is needed to clarify the state laws already contained in the books.
Whitmer’s spokeswoman also praised the directive.
“The Whitmer administration supports efforts to ensure the security of our election,” Tiffany Brown told CNN. “All voters have the right to vote safely without fear of intimidation or violence.”
Lansing Clerk Chris Swap said the new guidelines would help streamline the voting process on election day.
“I think it’s good to have one standard across the state for all the different polling stations. We use schools, churches and government agencies, and trying to figure out what rules apply to what location is very confusing for us who don’t are law enforcement specialists, “he told CNN. “I am very grateful for the answer we can give to our voters and our constituents.”
Voter intimidation is “an issue that arises among both voters and voters,” Suop added.
Asked if she thought the directive would help reduce voter intimidation on election day, Detroit City Secretary Janice Winfrey said, “We hope so.”
This story was updated with additional reaction.