Kent County ‘will not tolerate voter intimidation’

Elections

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Local officials are weighing in about voter intimidation as questions continue to swirl about enforcing Michigan’s open carry ban at the polls on Election Day.

Pointing to the exact statute, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said any act of voter intimidation is considered a serious offense under Michigan Election Law.

“It’s a felony in essence to do a number of things — obstruct, interfere with (or) intimidate and, that’s what we’re looking at in terms of enforcing the law,” Becker said. “You can’t do any of those things at a polling place.”

Becker noted that the statute itself is broad, leaving room for interpretation.

He said examples of voter intimidation could include one person bribing or threatening another to vote a certain way or to not vote at all.

In an effort to limit voter intimidation, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued an order last week banning people from carrying guns at or near polling places on Election Day.  

However, Becker said that’s not something his office can enforce.

“We can’t prosecute anything based on that law,” Becker said about Benson’s order.

Becker said if a person tried to use their weapon to intimidate a voter, that would be something his office can and will pursue, prosecuting such offenders to the fullest extent of the law.

“It’s got to be based on the facts and all the circumstances for law enforcement to investigate, and they’re planning on doing that,” Becker said.

The Kent County Clerk’s Office came out with their stance on the matter, sending a statement to News 8 Thursday evening backing Becker’s decision:

“Kent County is doing everything possible to ensure citizens can vote safely and securely. We will protect everyone’s constitutional rights, and we will not tolerate voter intimidation of any kind. Our election workers are not law enforcement and we will not expect them to act as such. The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office has made it clear that the Secretary of State’s order is invalid, and we are training our election workers in accordance with standing law.  Regardless of one’s position on the issue, the Secretary of State should work with the legislature to create policy as that’s the legislature’s role. Unfortunately this has not been the case all year long, and her policy decisions have resulted in lawsuit after lawsuit, creating voter confusion in an already difficult election year.” 

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