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"Don't be scared" of voter intimidation, Michigan official tells residents heading to the polls

Michigan official on safety of voting
Michigan official on safety of voting 05:22

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II is urging residents to not be afraid to head to the polls on Election Day

A state court recently ruled that Michigan election officials could not ban the licensed open carry of firearms at polling stations, prompting fears of possible voter intimidation efforts. 

"If someone is doing something illegal at a polling place, they will be prosecuted," Gilchrist said on CBSN Tuesday. "You just need to worry about casting your ballot. Don't be scared."

President Trump has repeatedly encouraged an "army" of supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully" — potentially stoking tensions in a state that is already expecting heightened militia activity.

While Gilchrist acknowledged that people had the right to bring a licensed firearm to a polling location where it is legally permitted, Michigan state law does ban voter intimidation and the brandishing of a firearm, and also prohibits the open carry of a weapon in places such as schools and churches, some of which are being used as polling sites in the battleground state.

"We expect law enforcement to enforce the laws that stop voter intimidation, regardless of the open carry standard," Gilchrist said.

Even before polls opened on Election Day, a record nearly 3 million voters have voted early in Michigan. Mr. Trump, who won Michigan in 2016 by less than 1%, has repeatedly attempted to cast doubt on the mail-in voting process, claiming without evidence that it was rife with fraud and that votes tallied after election night should not be counted. 

Asked about the president's attempt to cast doubt, Gilchrist urged voters to disregard that, and reenforced that counting every vote in an election with historic numbers of early voters takes time.

"Frankly, people should ignore this president who has been lying to us for four years," he said. "The expectation I have is of course he wants to lie about the results of the election. The truth is, elections are never wrapped up on election night."

Gilchrist encouraged voters to turn out one way or another, and vowed to keep Americans exercising that right safe.

"This is not a day that people should walk into with fear, and this is not a day business owners should walk into with fear," he said. "Election Day is an important day in our democracy and we need to make sure everyone can exercise their right safely."

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