Benton Harbor commissioners to consider "Day of Grace" on Election Day

NOW: Benton Harbor commissioners to consider “Day of Grace“ on Election Day

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Benton Harbor city commissioners will consider declaring a “Day of Grace” on Election Day for non-violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

The resolution will be introduced at Monday’s city commission meeting, just one day before the election, with its supporters saying police presence at the polls could keep some residents from even voting.

“People should be allowed to go to the polls without fear and that would include allowing folks who have non-violent warrants to exercise their right to vote without fear of being arrested,” said Commissioner-at-large Ron Singleton.

Singleton is also the retired chief of police for Benton Harbor and will propose the “Day of Grace” at the meeting, saying those with outstanding arrest warrants for non-violent offenses should be exempt from law enforcement action on Election Day.

“I feel that a person shouldn’t be denied their right to vote because they got a seatbelt ticket or didn’t have enough money to pay a traffic ticket because they don’t have a job,” said Singleton.

Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis told ABC57 his officers never use polling locations as a place to execute warrants and this election will be no different.

Yet, some still believe simply the presence of officers can turn these residents away from voting.

“This is a solution that allows the police to be a community support, added protection if they feel like they need to be there, but it’s also providing a calm over all the residents,” said Benton Harbor resident Elnora Gavin.

There are also concerns about possible voter intimidation at the polls and that police will need to protect people, with the state already trying to ban anyone from openly carrying a weapon to a polling place, but an appeals court threw that out.

Director McGinnis also assures residents they have not been made aware of any threats of voter intimidation.

Ultimately, the “Day of Grace” decision will come down to Benton Harbor city commissioners’ vote Monday at 7 p.m.

'This is a brilliant solution, I don’t understand why anybody would vote no," said Gavin.

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