An increased security presence is being used at Temple Israel and B’nai Moshe.
Temple Israel and Congregation B’nai Moshe will both be used as polling places for Election Day on Tuesday, and the West Bloomfield synagogues are taking precautions to ensure everyone can vote safely.
Rabbi Jennifer Lader of Temple Israel (Precincts 12 & 20) said the facility will be making sure people are following the rules and keeping the community safe on Election Day.
“We’re having an increased presence of security and staff because of the current political climate, and we want to make sure our voters are safe and feel welcomed to vote,” Lader said.
Concerns about possible voter intimidation have increased in the state of Michigan following a state Supreme Court ruling that allows open-carry firearms in the vicinity of polling places. But Lader says that won’t concern Temple Israel, as firearms aren’t allowed inside the synagogue anyway. Open carry was already prohibited inside some facilities that function as polling places, such as synagogues, churches and some schools.
Regardless, Lader says the synagogue is keeping an eye on it.
“We don’t allow open-carry in the building regardless of us being a polling place because we’re a religious institution, and we’re sticking to that, so people are not going to be permitted to open- carry in the synagogue.” Lader said.
“Of course I’m worried about voter intimidation, and hopefully that concern doesn’t come to pass. But that’s certainly something we’re keeping in the back of our mind.”
Temple Israel CEO David Tisdale doesn’t believe voter intimidation will be an issue in their area on Election Day.
“I think (voters) can feel secure coming to our place to cast their ballot,” Tisdale said.
In its Oct. 29 ruling permitting open-carry firearms at the polls, the state Supreme Court said that although concerns about voter intimidation involving firearms are valid, the state already has laws to handle that.
“Voter intimidation is — and remains — illegal under current Michigan law,” the court said.
“Anyone who intimidates a voter in Michigan by brandishing a firearm … is committing a felony under existing law, and that law is — and remains —enforceable by our executive branch as well as local law enforcement.”
The court battle takes place in the midst of Michigan’s most toxic political environment in a long time, just weeks after a foiled plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Steve Fine, the Executive Director of Congregation B’nai Moshe (Precincts 22 & 24), says that even though the Conservative synagogue is expecting a large crowd, it might not be nearly as big a turnout due as it would otherwise, due to the amount of absentee ballots that have already been cast in the county.
Regarding voter intimidation and open carry, Fine said B’nai Moshe has been in contact with the West Bloomfield police. While they can’t put any officers in the building, according to Fine, WBP has “doubled up their patrols.”
Fine also stated that he is planning to ask the precinct captain if the synagogue can put a sign on the door stating, “No Guns Allowed.”
Fine said that even though their building is basically closed and employees are working from home, the synagogue is still concerned about voter intimidation.
“Yes, we are. I am concerned,” Fine said. “But I worry about that at every place that’s a polling site. Not just here.”