Eight Senate Democrats have introduced a new bill on Wednesday that would ban guns within 100 yards of any federal election polling location.
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the “Vote Without Fear Act” on Wednesday. In a press statement, Murphy said the bill would “prohibit the possession of a firearm within 100 yards of any federal election site, with exceptions for on-duty law enforcement or security guards.”
Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have cosponsored Murphy’s bill.
The legislation comes just over a month before the 2022 mid-term elections
Currently, only six states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas – and the District of Columbia currently prohibit guns within a certain distance of polling locations.
“At the foundation of American democracy is the right to make your voice heard,” Murphy said. “Free and fair elections cannot happen occur in the face of armed intimidation at the polls, but that’s become a disturbing reality for some Americans, as extremists driven by conspiracy theories about voter fraud are increasingly showing up to polling places with guns. This legislation will ensure voters and election workers continue to feel safe participating in the democratic process.”
In 2020, two armed off-duty security officers were spotted near a tent holding campaign signs for Donald Trump. The tent was set up near a polling location in St. Petersburg, Florida and the presence of the two armed security guards, who were still in uniform after their shift, set off concerns about voter intimidation, the Washington Post reported. A local Republican election official determined the tent had been 250 feet away from the polling location, which is beyond the 150-foot perimeter around polling locations where campaign materials and guns are prohibited in Florida. Republican Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the off-duty guards had done nothing illegal during that 2020 incident.
Later on during the 2020 election, two men from Virginia were arrested near a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania polling location, where election workers were continuing to count mail-in ballots days after the election. The pair was arrested after Philadelphia police received a tip about threats being made against the polling location. The Washington Post reported the two men — 42-year-old Joshua Macias and 61-year-old Antonio LaMotta — were charged with having a concealed firearm without a license, a third-degree felony, and carrying a firearm on public streets or public property, a first-degree misdemeanor.
During the 2008 election, two members of the black nationalist organization the New Black Panther Party were seen standing around outside the doors of a Philadelphia polling location. One of the two men was seen holding a billy club and pointed it at voters while the two men allegedly shouted racial slurs. One of the men allegedly said “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker” referring to the election of Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president. The Obama-era Department of Justice later dismissed a civil rights lawsuit over the 2008 incident.