Your Take: Should we have polling places in churches?
Many polling places are in churches.
November 6th, 2012
06:45 PM ET

Your Take: Should we have polling places in churches?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - It's an election issue that gets virtually no attention, but we found out today that many of you do feel strongly about it: Churches being used as Election Day polling places.

A guest Belief Blog piece on the subject Tuesday morning, "My Take: Stop using churches as polling places," fetched more than a thousand comments, prompting us to ask Twitter followers to share their church-based voting experiences and pictures. Then we noticed the "My Take" rising to near the top of reddit politics, sparking a lively discussion there.

Lots of you who cast ballots inside a house of worship today were bothered by it. Others were bothered by the notion of church-based voting, whether or not you participated in it. A sampling of opposition to church-based voting:

[tweet https://twitter.com/reap3rx/status/265915592266096642%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/FlyByPC/status/265885633069846528%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/usaFreeDumb/status/265896038991265792%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/irasocol/status/265890682303045634%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/kkotchman/status/265897131766845440%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/jthom999/status/265888823853084672%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/KateKarwowska/status/265873201005985792%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/whiskyd/status/265869239473278976%5D

And from reddit:

Try for a moment to understand what another person may feel. As a gay man, I have been hounded my entire life by people who use their god and their religion to hurt me. I've been made out to be less than a person. I've been cut off from friends and family. I'm told that the way I love is sinful and evil, and I'm threatened with eternal damnation. Then imagine how it is for me that to practice my rights as an american citizen, I have to pass under the noses of the very people who condemn and judge me, in their own house, where they can be seen as figures of authority, where they're further pressuring me to be one of them, to join them, to believe what they believe.

It's wrong. It's so very inappropriate for them to use a political situation to their advantage to put that pressure on me. If they could stand by as impartial and open their doors simply as a building for work, maybe, but they don't.

Others didn't see what all the fuss was about. In fact, the comments on reddit were generally pro-church voting.

[tweet https://twitter.com/emhammar/status/265887419046457344%5D

From reddit:

This is silly, guys. First of all, churches don't host the voting process in their sanctuaries, they host them in their social halls, which are just as multi-purpose as any other rented public space. Secondly, what better place to set up voting booths on a Tuesday than the set aside rooms of a church. Public schools are in session, and there simply aren't enough state or community buildings to make polling in them a viable system, especially for the half of the country that lives in rural areas. Thirdly, if any place is "beating people over the head" with political slogans, etc. in a polling place, they're breaking the law. That happens just as much in "secular" polling locations as "religious" ones. As such, it's a red herring to throw that into the conversation.

This exactly. There are tons of churches around me, not many public buildings. My old district, I voted in a school, but there are no schools near my new district so we use the church's gym. Big deal, it makes voting more accessible.

I would also much rather vote in a church than have to wait 2 hours to cast my ballot. churches are much more plentiful than public buildings in most of the United States.

What's your take? Join the conversation in comments, Twitter, or reddit.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Church • Comments • Politics

soundoff (261 Responses)
  1. nemme lån

    Hello there, I found your blog by way of Google even as looking for a related subject, your website got here up, it appears to be like great. I've bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    December 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  2. Bob Smith

    If it makes you feel guilty, maybe that's the Holy Spirit working on your heart instead of just you feeling uncomfortable.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  3. AussieDude1276

    It's about using the best facilities available.
    If the church building is the one that has the more appropriate facilities then use that.
    If there is another building that has more appropriate facilities, use that one.

    November 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • AussieDude1276

      This assumes all buildings are equally available for use.
      If buildings aren't available, they can't be used. If you don't want them using a church, then lend out your own facilities.

      November 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Indyswimmer66

    Absolutely not! Strict separation of church and state!

    November 14, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  5. Dorothy

    As America is slowly taking God out of everything, and immorality is so high, America is falling and will fall apart. Everything that is happening in the world right now, has already been written in the Bible, that so many of you misquote and misinterpret so well. Some that call themselves "Christians" yet act and do what the world does, aren't really "Christians". Sign of the Times, whether you believe it or not, it doesn't matter.

    November 13, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  6. Cecilia

    At my previous three residences, my polling places were churches. I'm not very religious at all, but it didn't bother me in the least. I never felt that anyone was pushing an agenda on me or anything. The polling places were never in the church sanctuary itself, but always in some kind of large meeting room. The elections were always ran by the election personnel, not people affiliated with the church. In my opinion, we've all become a nation of saps if we can't help but become offended if we see a piece of religious artwork as we walk into the polling place.

    I moved to Saint Louis this year and I was surprised to find that my polling place was a bar!!! It was nice being able to get a Tequila and tonic after I oved to wash down the fact that I hated both candidates running for president this year. I could see people being offended by a bar as a polling place... like perhaps a recovering alcoholic that needs to avoid such places would not want to wait in line in a place full of the thing they are addicted to, but I certainly enjoyed it.

    November 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  7. Ken

    I'm a youth minister at a local church. Some of you would even identify my church as "fundamentalist." My polling place was at the Department of Transportation. I felt that having a government building as a polling place makes MUCH more sense than at a church. I'd like to see churches not used as polling places.

    November 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

    would religious like votig i a mosque, did the churches remove political materials no most did not so in violated the separation of church and state and IRS 501 (c)(3) prohibition guidelines, either diversify polls into mosques, temples and atheist places or stop it period

    November 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  9. niknak

    Suck it fundie repubs.
    Even with your Fix news/Flemball constant sky is falling echo chamber, and your voting cheating, and your religious preacher-pundits, you still got trounced on the 6th.
    The angry white male voting block is moving on or dying off. Scare tactics and spending billiions on TV ads did not work.
    If your party wants to be still in the game in 20 years, you wll have to move back off the teatard cliff and get the hate for non whites out of your hearts.
    Though I doubt you will. You will most likely do your repub/fundie "double down" and move further to the right, and further to oblivion.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  10. Joe

    I don't really see this as an issue. The church doesn't run the voting process. The people working the voting booths aren't necessarily members of that church. Church activities aren't actually going on during the voting. The church has no say in how you vote. It isn't a seperation of church and state issue. It's just a convienent public building. Even if you don't agree with what that church believes, nobody is telling you or even asking you to join the church. If an individual is, or has left any kind of propaganda, they shouldn't. If it were an issue with the church in general, then that location probably shouldn't be used as a poling place in the future. As somebody else pointed out, you don't even go into the sanctuary or worship center. You just go in, vote your conscience, and leave.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  11. Jason

    For every religious person using their belief as a hammer to discriminate, there is at least one secular leaning person discriminating against the religious. These comment sections are proof positive of that. Hypocrites all.

    November 12, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  12. Bob


    "Funny thing is, I wonder how many times funerals are held and grave sites purchased and crosses erected for fetuses that are miscarried in the first trimester"?


    November 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Jason

      Not that the Duggars are the perfect example here but I have been to several of these services. One in which the child was laid to rest next to her paternal grandfather. Actually very touching. If we truly beleive that life begins at conception (or thereabouts) these probably should be more common.

      November 12, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  13. Jo

    In most cases, the use of churches for voting is a function of a county board of election that can't find another usable space. In cities, polling places are in such high demand that people's residences, dollar stores, and barber shops are used. These spaces are not often handicap accessible. Nobody's trying to discriminate along religious or able-bodied lines. It's simply that there aren't enough non-denominational public spaces available. In rural areas there often aren't enough buildings period.

    November 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  14. Jan

    In our community, over half the polling places are in churches. They generally have a handicapped accessible entrance, they are usually easy to find, and nothing much happening on a Tuesday. I think if we weren't using churches, we'd probably have to double up and have multiple precincts voting in a single location, because I don't think we'd have enough appropriate public buildings otherwise. Most of the time, there hasn't been a problem here with religious pamphlets lying around, although I do remember one time picking one up that warned parents about secular humanists such as myself leading their dear ones astray. I don't think we're using that church as a polling place anymore.

    November 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  15. Gordon Burkins

    I am very offended by the requirement to vote at a church. I have done so my entire voting life (12 presidential elections). I wonder what kind of right wing riot there would be if we were required to vote in a mosque. By the way, a fire station and a police station are within eyesight of this church.

    November 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  16. Nietodarwin

    I live in CO and already sent a note to the governor about how DISGUSTED I was that my assigned polling place was in a baptist church. I hope people all over the country will do the same. This church is about 80 yards from a public school. I hope this church did not receive any monetary compensation from my government for use of the facilities. GET RELIGION COMPLETELY OUT OF GOVERNMENT. !!!!!!!!

    November 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Bob

      That will never happen. As long as the people retain the right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, the nature of democracy ensures that government will ALWAYS be influenced by those beliefs. And I would submit that we are better for that influence. A society not governed by principal would descend to chaos.

      November 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • John

      @Bob, yes it can happen, if we the people decide it should. Frankly, I think if churches were booted out as polling places, they should only blame themselves. They brought it on themselves through the last few decades of politicizing churches and politicizing faith. Yes, faith, side-by-side with philosophy, reason, science, and ideology are allowed to *influence* public policy, but it should never be permitted to *impose on* public policy.

      Churches, in the realm of public debate, are no longer neutral ground, have not been for at least two decades, more, actually, and therefore should be barred as polling places.

      November 12, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • SoLameSurvivor

      How is a church volunteering their space for the use of the community at large involving religion in government?

      November 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Rocky

    I am amazed at how this harebrained idea found its way on CNN website. I have many much better ideas and I don't find a forum to get them out to people, and here is this STUPID and DEVIOUS idea that has been put forward to probe peoples' minds and to plant a seed in their brains. I see a clear ULTERIOR motive behind this even finding its way on CNN website. The BBC director has just resigned for bad journalism. For this, heads should roll at CNN also.

    Okay. since you have thrown it out for comment, here's mine – have polling places in churches but then have them at other creed based places like Mosques, Hindu Temples, Sikh temples, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Synagogues, Gay bars, Gun Stores, Hookah lounges, and Adult entertainment places too.

    November 11, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  18. epuribus

    Yes a church as a polling place is OK but the GOVERNMENT SHOULD PAY FOR USING CHURCH FACILTIES

    November 11, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Sibley

      Consider churches' 501(c) tax-exempt status as payment for the government's use of their facilities on one day out of every two or four years.

      November 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  19. Texasnotea

    What if your neiborhood had a mosque as a polling place? How would you feel then?

    November 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Bob

      I would walk in, place my vote, possibly admire the beautiful architecture, and walk out as secure in my beliefs as when I walked in. If you are not capable of the same, perhaps you do have cause to be concerned.

      November 11, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  20. Steve

    I'm a magisterial district chair in my county dem committee and oversaw our support ops at 4 precincts on Tuesday. One of those precincts is in a church. Early on we discovered a stack of right-wing religious propaganda inside the church were people enter the actual polling area, and the poll workers were required to remove it. Later in the day, one of our workers notice a lady leaving with the same piece of propaganda in her hand, and asked her where she got it – the lady replied that it had been laying in a polling booth! Now, that may have been brought in and then left by a prior voter, or it may have been placed intentionally by someone, but either way it's a violation of law and just bad news generally, and we raised hell with the Registrar and had the polling place cleared temporarily while it was thoroughly inspected and made sure that no other such propaganda existed.

    Now, this could have happened at any polling place. But it appears that this particular propaganda was being distributed in the church the preceding weekend, and placing the materials at the polling-place entrance (away from the sanctuary in a area of the structure not used during worship activities) was obviously a premeditated act. This is not only a violation of the principle of separation of religion and state, it's a clear violation of state and federal voting law. It must be prevented in any way possible.

    While many types of shenanigans happen during polling, this sort is especially egregious. Like it or not, the *potential* for this sort of thing is just naturally much higher when a polling place is in a church. We must stop using churches as polling places.

    November 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • End Religion

      exactamundo. This is where the great divide resides in this discussion: is a church theoretically a bad place for polling or is only once in practice?

      I think lots of people can deal with voting in a church, and that a church is a decent place in that its an available, spacious (usually), heated (usually), available building, and that churches can be neutral. The point is that, in reality, one shouldn't have to feel the oppressive feelings a church may provide, and a church runs more of a risk of NOT remaining neutral. SO whether one person feels it is OK or not, there are better alternatives. Many people would be OK voting in a bar, or even an abortion clinic, but that doesn't mean everyone should be forced to go to those places to vote just because they're spacious and warm.

      There wouldn't be any argument if we just moved voting to a 2-day process over a weekend and used schools for it.

      November 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Thank you for your comment Steve, that story says it all, and is not uncommon. The bill board on this article says it all too. I wrote my governor about my disgust with practice, and I hope others will do so also.

      November 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Bob

      Just out of curiosity Steve. As an official representative of a political party, isn't your presence at a polling place other than to vote also illegal?

      November 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • SoLameSurvivor

      You must stop listening to the voices in your head. Here's a thought! If there were structures other than churches owned by individuals who would make them available for the use of society, maybe they'd be polling places. . . . . but they haven't selflessly volunteered their spaces for this vital use. And if you seriously want me to believe that your having to walk into a church to vote in some way violates your religious freedom, or coerces you to vote in a way different than you would vote if the polling place were a gov't office building, then you're a sheep who deserves to have your life dictated to you

      November 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.