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Gun group challenges polling place firearms ban

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"Open Carry" by formatted_dad is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
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Gun rights groups have filed a legal challenge to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s ban on openly carrying firearms at or near polling places on Election Day. The rule bars the open carry of guns within 100 feet of a polling location, at a clerk’s office, or where an absentee ballot counting board meets.

The lawsuit claims Benson’s rule violates the Michigan Constitution and a state law that allows most people to openly carry a firearm in public places without a license. 

“If you want to pass law in Michigan, there’s a procedure by which the state can do that,” said Dean Greenblatt, an attorney for the group Michigan Open Carry. “The Legislature passes a bill, and then it goes to the governor for signature, but we don’t have rule-by-edict in Michigan.” 

Greenblatt says Michiganders should not have to choose between their right to bear arms and their right to vote on Election Day, which he called a form of voter suppression.

There are places in Michigan that can ban open carry, including churches, day care centers, courts, and theaters. But Greenblatt said the open carry law has no exception for polling places.        

But Benson’s spokesperson said she has the law on her side.     

“The Supreme Court has consistently held that the right to vote is a fundamental right foundational to our democratic society and preservative of our other basic rights,” said spokesperson Jake Rollow. “As the state’s chief elections officer, the secretary has a duty and a responsibility to protect that right and to provide much-needed clarity to voters and election workers on the existing state and federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation, harassment and coercion.”

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.