What should you do if you see a “militia” at your polling site? – FindLaw


Lansing, Michigan - October 17: The Bogallo Boys hold a rally at the Capitol on October 17, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan.  The Bugalo Boys called it the Unity Rally in an attempt to distance themselves from the Wolverine Watchers who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  Two of the men caught in the plot were Boogaloo Boys.  (Photo by Seth Herald / Getty Images)

The emergence of self-styled armed “militias” in street protests this year raises concerns that these same groups will appear in polling stations on Election Day.

Some even pledged to do so They will be present On these sites.

Can they do that?

Of course they are Can. But the most important question is: What can they legally? Act At the polling sites?

But before we try to answer that question, it’s important to point out something that has often been overlooked during this crazy year: Citizen militias in the United States may be illegal.

Many legal experts, at least, make this point.

Mary McCord, a former Justice Department official who now heads the Institute for Constitutional Defense and Protection at Georgetown Law Center, is one of them. And recently I wrote in A. “These armed groups do not have the authority to summon themselves to serve in the militia.” New York Times op / ed piece. “The Second Amendment does not protect such activity All 50 states ban it“.

Said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in constitutional law and gun policy US News and World Report(These) self-proclaimed militias have no relationship with the state government whatsoever, nor the authority to speak on behalf of the state or the people of the state.

If they are not militias, then what are they?

OK. So, technically “militia” may be the wrong term for these groups because it is not linked to government or law enforcement.

But since the US Supreme Court ruled District of Columbia v. Heller In 2008, we now recognize the individual right to keep and carry weapons for legitimate purposes such as self-defense. So maybe we can call them “Groups of Legal Firearms Enthusiasts”.

Whatever we call it, they have definitely become visible this year in places like Kenosha, Wisconsin, Portland, Oregon, as well as many other parts of the country. In all, 45 states allow a certain degree of open carry firearms, although restrictions vary from state to state.

Only six states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) explicitly ban weapons at polling stations, and four states do not allow concealed weapons.

While a lot of states allow guns at polling stations, there are nevertheless Federal law prohibits voter intimidation At polling sites. So it is likely that at some polling site something needs to be submitted.

What constitutes intimidation?

Is it just a weapon of terror? What if there is a group of people carrying weapons? What if they’re in uniform and seem to pose a threat?

The truth is, this is a gray area.

But if you see groups that fit this description when going to the polls, there are things you can do, or at least take into consideration. To assist people seeking guidance in this area, the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Defense and Protection issuedFact sheet voter intimidation“.

This fact sheet indicates the types of behavior that may be considered intimidating. These include confronting voters, waving firearms, making verbal threats, and disrupting voting lines.

The center also provides services Country-by-country fact sheet Detail the specific laws in all 50 states.

Keep your eyes open and take notes

The fact sheets provide recommendations about what to do if you see armed groups that may intimidate voters. She recommends jotting everything you see: What do they do? Do they act as if they are law enforcement? What kind of outfit are they wearing? What kinds of firearms do they carry? Do they seem to have a leader?

It is important to keep in mind that although the law may allow them to carry firearms, they cannot intimidate voters.

In some jurisdictions, officials said intimidation by armed groups will not be tolerated. In PhiladelphiaFor example, District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office “intends to ensure that there is no threat” at polling sites and encouraged anyone who testifies to voter repression to contact the Election Task Force Hotline (215-686-9641).

Additionally, a nonpartisan national coalition called Election Protection provides a voter hotline in any state to contact if they witness voter repression. This number is 866-687-8683.

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