Armed protesters take part in an American Patriot Rally organized by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on April 30, 2020, calling for businesses to reopen.
Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images
Michigan's Foreign Secretary on Friday banned the open carrying of guns at polling stations and other official polling stations on election day in the state, a move that follows an alleged conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and following armed protests at the statehouse.
“Fair, free and safe elections are the foundation of our democracy.” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said at the announcement of the open-carry ban, which is supported by the Attorney General and the State Police.
"I am committed to ensuring that all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their basic voting rights without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment," said Benson, Michigan's chief electoral officer.
"The ban on the open carrying of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure that every voter is protected."
Benson outlined the ban in a guide for local election officials.
The ban on the open carrying of firearms applies to polling stations, clerks, and absentee voters on Election Day, November 3rd, and extends 100 feet from these locations.
These guidelines stated that "the presence of firearms in" these locations "may cause disruption, fear or intimidation to voters, poll workers and others present."
Attorney General Dana Nessel said, "Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on election day without threat or intimidation."
"Having an armed presence in the elections is contrary to our vision of free democracy. I stand by the secretary in her commitment to ensuring that anyone who chooses to vote in person can do so safely and without fear or intimidation."
Michigan has 16 votes in the competition between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump barely won Michigan in its 2016 contest against Hillary Clinton, displacing the Democrat by just 0.23% of the votes cast. The state was one of several in the rust belt that played a vital role in giving Trump enough votes to defeat the former U.S. Secretary of State on the electoral college.
However, recent polls show that Biden leads Trump in Michigan by more than 6 percentage points on average.
Trump has been criticizing Whitmer for her response to the Covid-19 outbreak since last spring.
Earlier this month, federal authorities arrested six men in connection with an alleged conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer. One of these defendants allegedly said the group would bring the governor to justice for "treason".
Terrorism charges were brought against eight other men who allegedly offered assistance to the program and tried to spark civil war and commit acts of violence against law enforcement officials in the state. All fourteen defendants are believed to be members or employees of militia groups, including one called the Wolverine Watchmen.
The alleged conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer and the discussions about it, including Virginia Gov. Kidnapping Ralph Northam, another Democrat, was fueled by anger over their Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Following armed protests by members of militia groups and others in the state capital, Trump tweeted "Liberate Michigan!" In April.
Whitmer and Nessel have said that Trump's rhetoric may have played a role in sparking the alleged conspiracy.
Whitmer has called Trump an “accomplice,” while Nessel said of Trump's elected officials and Republicans, “When they say these things, people don't just listen, they answer … It's not just a dog whistle, it's a gathering cry. ""
At least one of the men charged with the kidnapping, Brandon Caserta, has reportedly posted news criticizing Trump and calling the president a "tyrant".
"Trump is not your friend, dude. I am amazed that when he is shown over and over again, people actually believe he is a bully," Caserta said in a video broadcast online, the Detroit News reported . "Every single person who works for the government is your enemy, dude."
Several Caserta co-defendants reportedly posted pro-Trump messages on social media.
Trump continued to attack Whitmer for her policies, even after the alleged act of abduction was exposed.
Trump beat up Whitmer during a Fox business interview on Thursday, accusing her of being a "dictator".
"Michigan, it has to open up," said Trump. "She wants to be a dictator in Michigan and the people don't like her."