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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:21 PM

Should churches be used as polling spots?

In South Saint Paul, Minn., on Election Day, residents showed up at St. John Vianney Catholic Church to vote and were greeted with a banner outside the polling place entrance that read, “Strengthen Marriage, Don’t Redefine It.”Minnesota was voting on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Church had been the most vocal proponent of the ballot measure.Voters snapped photos of the banner, which quickly gained attention on Twitter and Facebook.

Ivan Kowalenko took one of those photos. He told Minnesota Public Radio, “I was shocked, I didn’t think that would be allowed. I was hearing that you’re not allowed to wear any political slogan of your own, so it doesn’t seem entirely appropriate that a voting venue would be allowed to express an opinion.”

Incidents like these have caused advocates for separation of church and state to urge elections officials to end the practice of using churches as polling places, or at the very least, beef up enforcement of polling place rules when churches are being used as polling places.What happened in Minnesota is a familiar story to voters in North Carolina. That state voted in favor of a constitutional amendment in May that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions. Several churches that were serving as polling places posted signs in support of that amendment.In Raleigh, North Carolina, Devon Park United Methodist Church put up the words “A true marriage is male and female and God” during the May vote on the constitutional amendment. That church was serving as a polling place.The church’s pastor, William H. Pearsall Sr., told the Wilmington Star-News that it was his idea and that his church council agreed to put the message up. “We agreed that we needed to stand up for Christian values,” Pearsall said. He also told the paper, “In our church, God’s word never changes and it’s the truth.”
In all three instances in North Carolina, the signs were outside of the buffer zone set by state statute and were, therefore, legal. However, the incidents prompted a call by some residents and advocacy groups to revamp the selection process for polling places.

In North Carolina, the Christian church was a huge backer of the constitutional amendment, and many churches who had taken a public stand in support of the amendment were also serving as polling places.Several Catholic churches across the country had similar anti-abortion displays greeting voters when they arrived at the polls.


http://www.salon.com/2012/11/25/should_churches_be_used_as_polling_spots/

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Should churches be used as polling spots? (Original post)
octoberlib Nov 2012 OP
onehandle Nov 2012 #1
Wounded Bear Nov 2012 #2
kooljerk666 Nov 2012 #3
RC Nov 2012 #4
HopeHoops Nov 2012 #5
csziggy Nov 2012 #6
ohheckyeah Nov 2012 #7
exboyfil Nov 2012 #8
11 Bravo Nov 2012 #12
sarcasmo Nov 2012 #9
broiles Nov 2012 #10
ladym55 Nov 2012 #11
Iggo Nov 2012 #24
ISUGRADIA Nov 2012 #13
AlexSatan Nov 2012 #16
quaker bill Nov 2012 #14
dhpgetsit Nov 2012 #15
frazzled Nov 2012 #17
Arkana Nov 2012 #18
forestpath Nov 2012 #19
Beacool Nov 2012 #20
Jeff In Milwaukee Nov 2012 #21
Beacool Nov 2012 #23
Iggo Nov 2012 #22

Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:27 PM

1. I've voted in a lot of churches without any propaganda.

Any election place should be policed. I'm not going to discount any location that adds to the vote.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:31 PM

2. I have no problem with voting in churches...

I have big problems with the propaganda....

If they're going to rent out their space to the gov't, they should abide by government rules. This should cause revocation of their tax-exempt status.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:32 PM

3. Take away tax exempt status............

 

My old polling spot was a church & first thing U saw was a big money raising poster for sending evangelists to the Middle East.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:34 PM

4. When churches are use as polling places, those areas become secular.

 

It is illegal to have any politically connected anything posted, while the polls are open. But it is a common problem.
The church where I used to go to vote in Fargo ND tried that and got threatened with legal action. The next election, you had a hard time believing it was a church after you entered. There were no anything on the entrance tables, walls, bulletin boards, that was church or religious related. It was conspicuous by its absence.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:38 PM

5. No.

 

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:38 PM

6. My polling place used to be a church

That church or some other one were pretty much the only choices in our semi-rural precinct. Thirty plus years ago when we moved to this precinct there were no businesses or meeting places with buildings that could accommodate the machines and the number of people needed for voting. The particular church was the largest within the precinct and had the best parking and access for mobility impaired people. The church was careful not to leave out strongly religious or political items - though they were not terribly political. They did not remove all the religious accouterments - the huge handstitched copy of "The Last Supper" remained up and the hymnals that the choir used in their practices stayed in stacks to one side.

About ten years ago the historic country store built a place meant for weddings and other events and that became our polling place. It is good that voting is out of the church; bad that it is at the outer edge of the precinct rather than close to the center. For us to vote there, rather than voting on the way into town, we have to drive over two miles away from town. The parking lot is gravel so when my knees were bad, it was uncomfortable for me to walk through it.

I've only voted at the new place twice since they do not offer early voting at that location. Our early voting locations near to us are branch libraries. One is about 6-7 miles away to the west, the other is about 8-10 miles south. Either one could be 'on the way' into town depending on how I arrange my various stops.

I think many places have the problem we used to - churches may be the only locations with the facilities to handle the volume of people needed. But putting up a banner with a overtly political message should NOT be allowed, IMO. I'd complain to the local supervisor of elections or whatever office manages these things if it were within the specified distance from the polling location, the same as if a regular political sign were in that line.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:47 PM

7. No -

my polling place is a church. It doesn't need to be. We used to vote in schools and there are plenty of other places that could be used.

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Response to ohheckyeah (Reply #7)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 03:26 PM

8. Make election day a national holiday include

being off from school. It would be difficult to run polling in the school while it is in session. Replace Columbus Day with it.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #8)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:46 PM

12. I've been teaching for 38 years. In every one of those years ...

the school at which I taught was also a polling place. Teachers hate it because our cars ALWAYS get dented by thoughtless assholes, but the actual school day never misses a beat.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 03:33 PM

9. If they start paying taxes.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 03:57 PM

10. I quit being the election judge in my precinct because of this.

Not only because of the religious displays, but the last time we were in the gym while they were holding a 2 hour service in there. They put up temporary partitions around us, but the partitions were plastered with church's propaganda and the speaker system was turned up so we couldn't avoid hearing every word of the service. Complaining to the church didn't help nor did complaining to the county election supervisors. So I quit. Now I early vote which is held in another location.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:14 PM

11. My church has been a polling place for years

The only signs the church posts are directional .... "Voting this way!"

We take separation of church and state VERY seriously ... I am allowed to put League of Women Voters guides in the lobby for information, but nobody is allowed to promote one political agenda over another.

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Response to ladym55 (Reply #11)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:02 PM

24. Oh my god! See? They're telling you which way to vote!

Wait...

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 06:21 PM

13. Yeah Go Ahead

Dump churches as polling places. Good luck finding sites that will fit the requirements for a precinct polling place.

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Response to ISUGRADIA (Reply #13)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:06 AM

16. +1

 

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 06:37 AM

14. There should be no

political candidate or issue advocacy within the restricted zone near the polling place. Locally I believe the ordinance requires 100' or 150' radius clear zone with no candidate or issue signs or activists at the polling place. Out near the entrance to the parking lot was beyond the clear zone and people were waving signs in support of issues, Romney, Obama, just like any other street corner in town. I have no problem with who owns the building if there is a clear zone where activists cannot work the line of folks waiting to vote. The law applied to churches as well as public schools and any other polling location universally.

These laws may not exist everywhere, but should if they don't.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 09:43 AM

15. I used to vote at a church in Tucson.

There was apparently a law regarding how far from the ballot-box a sign could be, since there were all these markers to tell you how far you were from the actual polling place.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:18 AM

17. Yes, but enforce existing laws regarding election-related materials

I used to vote at a church (in Minneapolis), with no problems. In many communities, there just aren't enough adequate spaces to find enough precinct voting places without using church basements or community rooms.

I've also voted at an public elementary school (in Massachusetts), and now at a union hall (in Chicago), where there's an electronic billboard that could conceivably post pro-union messages on election day. Each of these places might have the same issue if a ballot question involved some kind of education reform or right-to-work or pension reform. There are laws regarding the distance from a polling place that election materials can be displayed. These differ from state to state. In Massachusetts, you couldn't park in the school's lot to cast your vote with a bumper sticker for a candidate unless you went to the far reaches of the adjunct lot. They had people outside who would come and tell you to move your car if you parked too close to the building.

If we ban churches from being used as polling places, many municipalities would have a hard time finding available space for voting.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:50 AM

18. No. Absolutely not.

If there was ever a place that was susceptible to electioneering it's a church.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:59 AM

19. No. My polling place changed from a school to a church this year and it pissed me off.

 

The church where I voted had no signs up that I saw, but I believe religion has NO place in government, including using its buildings to vote in.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 11:10 AM

20. My church was a polling place for many years.

There was never any propaganda. Although I live in a liberal area part of NJ, the pastors were always careful to leave politics at the church door. Which is how it should be since not everyone is of the same political persuasion.

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Response to Beacool (Reply #20)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 12:42 PM

21. Same here...

We didn't even allow yard signs for school ballot issues on our property, even though we were next door to the neighborhood middle school, ran an after-school tutoring program, and had a majority of members who felt passionately about funding for public education.

No means no.

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Response to Jeff In Milwaukee (Reply #21)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:02 PM

23. That's how it should be.

Most of our members are liberal, but there are some who are not and they are welcome in our church too. There has never been any overt politicking, although the church supports liberal causes (such as holding vigils at a jail that houses illegal immigrants who have committed no crimes other than being in the country illegally). My church is also involved with the homeless and feeds them lunch every day (the only church in town to do so). The shelter takes care of breakfast and dinner, but I digress. Come election time, the only sign was the one that announced the place to be a voting location and that the flag was placed at the entrance of the church hall. A few years ago the city moved the site to another location.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:00 PM

22. My polling place for the last two cycles has been a church.

Of course, I vote in a dark blue area of SoCal.

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