Election officials to voters: Leave your guns at home

State law prohibits carrying weapons in or within 1,000 feet of schools

State law doesn’t prohibit Iowans from packing heat when they head to the polls, but election officials are suggesting voters follow Johnny Cash’s advice and “leave your guns at home.”

There’s nothing in Iowa Code that specifically prohibits guns at polling places, according to Chance McElhaney of the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

However, he explained, most polling places fall into one of three categories – local government building, school or church. State law prohibits carrying weapons in or within 1,000 feet of schools. In other cases, the owners of most buildings where voting will be occurring from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5 have their own rules against bringing weapons inside.

Packing pistols at the polls has become an issue in Kansas. The secretary of state has asked for an attorney general’s opinion on whether a state law allowing concealed weapons in most public buildings applies to polling places in buildings that are rented for Election Day.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller hasn’t had any reports of armed voters.

“I did have a poll worker ask if it was OK for a precinct worker to have a gun,” Miller said. “I don’t know if he was planning or just asking.”

He speculated that if a church or other polling place has a weapons ban posted, a voter carrying a weapons could be charged with trespassing.

He also pointed out that police officers at 16 voting sites where children will be present while the polls are open “might not look kindly” on voters coming armed.

Miller strengthened security at polling places after a person threatened election workers in Ely and again after school shootings in other parts of the country. There will be police officers at schools, day care centers and other polling places while children are present.

Johnson County Deputy Auditor Kingsley Botchway was unaware of issues with armed voters.

“I think we would have received a call from a poll worker if that had happened,” he said.

For more on the Nov. 5 election and to find your polling place, visit http://thegazette.com/2013/10/23/election-2013-digital-voters-guide/.

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