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Judge stops Election Day gun ban near Michigan polling sites

sign marking poll distance banning campaigning at polling places
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

A judge has blocked a ban on the open display of guns near Michigan polling places on Election Day. Judge Christopher Murray acted Tuesday, just a few hours after hearing a challenge from gun-rights groups.

Unless it’s reversed by a higher court, it applies to voting places and absentee counting boards November 3. The only exception would be churches and other places that are already allowed to forbid the open carry of guns.

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Gun rights groups said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, had exceeded her authority in banning people from openly carrying gunswithin 100 feet of polling places. Critics argued that Benson failed to go through a formal rule-making process as required under state law.

Murray said during the court hearing that he thinks Benson exceeded her authority, and that the directive is not necessary.   

“There’s already a state law that protects against voter intimidation. Right? So if anyone is feeling intimidated by someone brandishing or carrying an open weapon, then there’s already statutory authority to take care of that problem,” Murray said.

Murray also said Benson waited too long to issue the directive instead of going through the process for creating a formal rule. Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast told the judge that wasn’t an option this year.

“The need for this directive wasn’t apparent months ago. As we set forth in our brief, the need for this, for this instruction, for something to happen quickly, has grown over the last several weeks,” she said.

The attorney general’s office said the decision will be immediately challenged in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The state says Benson has a responsibility to ensure order and “an island of calm” for voters and poll workers on Election Day.

This story was last updated at 6:16 p.m. on October 27. 

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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