Voter misinformation topped worries about intimidation

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Prior to Election Day 2020, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the Michigan Supreme Court engaged in a political pingpong match. 

Jocelyn Benson

State of Michigan

Jocelyn Benson

On Oct. 16, Benson issued a directive banning all firearms at polling places in Michigan, hoping to decrease the chances of voter intimidation. East Lansing Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez of the East Lansing Police Department said on Oct. 26 that his department was waiting to gather information from the city attorney’s office before planning any action to take. 

“We’re aware of that, and we’re currently taking a look at the legalities of how we would have to enforce that,” Gonzalez said. 

East Lansing Communications Director Mikell Frey wrote in an email the clerk’s office would follow any guidance set by the state. 

“This information has been posted on the city’s website and the East Lansing City Clerk’s office plans to follow all of the instructions that have been shared for local clerks in Michigan,” Frey said. 

However, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Murray ruled against Benson’s order, saying it went against the Administrative Procedures Act, or APA. 

“Turning to the merits, the main issue as the Court sees it is the allegation that the directive violates the APA because it is a rule that was not promulgated through the act’s procedures,” Murray ruled. “And, a rule not promulgated under the APA is invalid.” 

Even though the directive was overturned, Benson said in a statement that intimidating anyone with a firearm is still a crime, and anyone who does it will be punished. 

“The bottom line is that voter intimidation is illegal,” Benson said. “As the Court of Appeals confirmed, anyone who intimidates a voter in Michigan by brandishing a firearm is committing a felony, and this is enforceable by Michigan State Police and local law enforcement.” 

And as Election Day came and went, voter misinformation replaced voter intimidation. Benson took on robocalls in Flint, Michigan that were spreading misinformation. The calls claimed that because voting lines were so long, voters should vote the next day, Nov. 4.

“Lines in the area and across the state are minimal and moving quickly, and Michigan voters can feel confident that leaders across state and local government are vigilant against these kinds of attacks on their voting rights and attempts at voter suppression, and we will be working quickly all day to stamp out any misinformation aimed at preventing people from exercising their right to vote,” Benson said in a statement. 

“Please remember to only believe information from trusted media sources, your local clerk, or me and my team.”