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State appeals guns-at-polls decision

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Voter turnout is better when we're electing a new president. The best gubernatorial turnout rate in Michigan was 60% in 1962 (based on data starting in 1948).

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel say it’s not too late to reinstate a ban on openly carrying guns at or near polling places on Election Day.

They are appealing a court rulingthat struck down a directive from Benson that banned open carry in and near polling places on Election Day.

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The decision from Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray said Benson circumvented the state’s formal rule-making process when she issued the directive.

Benson and Nessel say the state’s chief election officer has broad power to ensure safety and order as conditions grow more contentious with the approach of Election Day.         

Benson said Wednesday she also has other authority to ensure voters and poll workers feel safe.

“Voter intimidation of any kind is illegal under state and federal law,” she said."And we’re going to equip our local poll workers, our city and township clerks, and our county clerks with the information and tools they need to ensure the law is followed.”

Nessel said the state stands by its position that guns at polling places can be intimidating, and that the Secretary of State has broad power to ensure safe and orderly elections.

She also said the case is on a fast track so it can be decided by the state Supreme Court as soon as possible.

“We will have this resolved by November 3, and we will make it clear exactly what the rules are and are not prior to people going into the polls on that particular day," Nessel said.

The next stop would be the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Nessel said there will also be a state hotline for people to report problems, including instances of voter intimidation. Brandishing a firearm and blocking access to polling places are already illegal.

Benson said poll workers will have information on how to get ahold of local law enforcement to report confrontations and other problems.

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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.
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