Michigan Sheriffs Say They Won't Enforce Ban on Open Carry Guns at Polls on Election Day

Some sheriffs in Michigan have said they won't be enforcing a ban on openly carrying guns near polling places on Election Day.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's chief elections officer, issued the guidance to election clerks earlier in October.

It prohibits openly carrying a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place, clerk's office or absent voter counting board on November 3. Concealed guns are still permitted, unless the polling place is a location, such as a church or school, where firearms are banned.

But Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel called Benson's guidance "illegal."

"She doesn't have the authority to make laws," Schendel told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. He has been contacted for additional comment.

The newspaper reported that Schendel is among several law enforcement officers across Michigan who have said they won't enforce the ban.

Benson's guidance noted that the presence of guns at polling places on Election Day "may cause disruption, fear, or intimidation for voters, election workers, and others present."

Election workers were advised to contact law enforcement if anyone is seen violating the ban or intimidating, hindering or impeding voters outside the 100-feet limit.

Robert Stevenson, the head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, told Newsweek that officers won't be able to enforce the ban because it isn't based on law.

"The issue with the Secretary of State issuing the ban on open carry at the polling stations is she issued an administrative order. Michigan has an open carry law that prohibits open carry in defined locations. Polling locations are not one of those," he said.

"So the issue for us is not that we won't enforce the ban, it's that there is no law that we can enforce. We have no authority to enforce the secretary's order. This is exactly what prosecutors are advising us."

According to the Record-Eagle, the Michigan Sheriff's Association asked sheriffs to consult local prosecutors on whether to uphold the ban.

The ban has also been challenged in two lawsuits filed by gun rights activists and groups, according to the newspaper.

"Whatever the court decides we can do or cannot do to regrading open carry at the polls is what the Michigan chiefs will do. We will enforce any applicable laws," Stevenson added.

Benson announced the ban days after 13 men were charged over an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer, a Democrat, later blasted President Donald Trump after he called for her to be jailed at a campaign rally in the state. "This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials' lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans. It needs to stop," Whitmer tweeted.

At the first presidential debate in late September, Trump called on his supporters to "go to the polls and watch very carefully," sparking fears of voter intimidation or violence at the polls.

"I am committed to ensuring all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment," Benson said earlier this month. "Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected."

She has been contacted for additional comment.

This article has been updated with comments from the head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

A group tied to the Boogaloo Bois holds a rally as they carry firearms at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on October 17, 2020. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images