Vermont Bans Guns At Polling Places

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) allowed a bill banning people from bringing guns into or near polling places to become law on Tuesday.

The bill was passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled House and Senate and sent to the governor on May 22, and he had five days to either sign or veto the law and since he did neither, the bill was enacted without his signature.

The law states that a person can’t knowingly possess a gun at a polling place or “on the walks leading to a building in which a polling place is located” on Election Day, and the provision must be posted outside the entrances to polling places.

The legislation notes exceptions for law enforcement officers and federal employees authorized to carry firearms, along with firearms in motor vehicles. 

Anyone who violates the law is subject to a maximum of one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the Voting Rights Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, praised Vermont’s legislators for passing this legislation in a statement this week.

“The new ban on guns at polling places is common sense, and it will help keep the state’s elections safe,” Morales-Doyle said. “No one should be at risk of intimidation or violence while casting a ballot. We hope more states follow in Vermont’s footsteps.”.

The 2020 and 2022 elections saw a sharp rise in violence and threats of violence against election workers: more than 40% of state legislators experienced threats or attacks in the past three years, and more than 18% experienced them within the past year and a half, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Movement Advance Project, an independent, nonprofit think tank, said on its website that there is “Currently, no federal law prohibits the possession of firearms in polling places, and therefore this policy choice is left to the states,” the think tank said.

Vermont is one of 12 states, plus Washington, D.C., to ban firearms in polling places, according to the Movement Advancement Project. New Mexico passed a law in March that prohibits carrying any gun — loaded or unloaded — near a polling place or within 50 feet of a drop box.

Virginia’s legislature passed a bill banning firearms near election-related places, but Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) vetoed it in March.

Vermont’s new law also bans ghost guns, which are privately made firearms without serial numbers, making them nearly impossible to track.