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. Trent

    As long as there is no pressuring or advertising for specific candidates in churches, nor overt religious activities going on at the same time as voting, there is no reason why churches shouldn't be used. The question is whether they need to be used. If they are open, empty on the weekday, located conveniently, and easy to find in the community, not to mention free, then it seems like a good savings of government funds to use them for voting.

    Some churches opt out and choose not to let their facilities be used for voting, but for those that offer their space we would be stupid not to use it. If voters are uncomfortable voting there they can vote at another location.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  2. DC

    I only had to vote in a church once, in San Diego, and yes, it was right at the altar/stage, not in a gym or social hall. As a non believer, it was very uncomfortable. There are public elementary schools in pretty much every neighborhood in the country (there are two within walking distance of that church.) If it's close enough to homes to accommodate daily attendance by our youngest kids, it's close enough for voters. Schools can cancel gym class one day every couple years when election day comes around, and a school gym can handle multiple small precincts if needed. I've seen it done in other states.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  3. Glen

    I don't like it.

    Religion has been the scourge of our nation. And you'll note it's red/Repulican run states which don't want to implement Obamacare. Why? Because sick people without the science of modern medical treatment have to turn to religion and god (which has scientifically been shown to do nothing to heal the sick). People who become ensconced in religion have a tendency to believe that this life is just something temporary and are more wiling to endure the Republican policies which keep them down and disheveled because they just KNOW they are going to have a paradise life after they die.

    Given that religions have become more and more bold and blatant about 'encouraging' people to vote a certain way (even downright demanding it in some instances), it is HIGHLY inappropriate for polling places to be held in a church. They need to find more appropriate locations like schools and libraries. If a church is the only option then they need to ensure that all religious symbols are taken down or covered and that there are absolutely NO messages what-so-ever in view of those who come in. 'Accidentally' leaving a message around should be subject to stiff fines.

    November 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  4. BradKT

    I voted at a site located on chuch property on Tuesday. There was ample parking, the multi-purpose room was spacious, the volunteers were courteous and helpful and all went smoothly. No problems.

    My polling site has changed half a dozen times in the last 10 years. This one was perfect.

    I have no porblem whatsoever with a using church property as a polling site.

    November 8, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  5. Lala

    The problem with it is that they are tax exempt. This means they are not allowed to be involved in politics at all. Any place that is tax exempt and has political signs on their property or is being used as a polling place (which I have never heard of until now) should be reported to the IRS and have their tax exempt status revoked.

    November 8, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. William Schart

    I have been a pollworker since the 2008 primary. I have worked in polls located in public schools, in a homeowners association clubhouse, and this election, in a church recreation room. I don't see any problem, the church did not in any way attempt to influence the election. The pastor did drop by at one point in time to make sure that everything was going ok, and I guess that perhaps a secretary might have been on duty in the office, although I could state that as a fact, but otherwise church personnel were not visible at all.

    BYW, public schools here used election day as a teacher workday, so school was not in session at any of the schools used as polling places. For other elections, where turnout is much lower, schools do remain in session with little problem.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  7. navimama

    They host them in their social places but during a presidential election, the line might have to go into the sanctuary (like it did in 2008 – I moved and voted in a school this year). Of course the church I voted in, in 2008, was a small United Methodist church, and they didn't have any pamphlets out or inappropriate decorations. There were of course, the stained glass, and the cross, but that's it.

    November 8, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  8. clarke

    I think the question is kinda silly. they set up in the social hall or gym. It is a building where you vote, it is not like your sitting in a pew having to pray against your will. Really

    November 8, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  9. The Bible is Simple, Man is Complex

    There is a misunderstanding here. This about a BUILDING that hosts a local group of people with the same beliefs. A church building could very well be a home or gym or community buiding. A church is a group of people associating together. I would not have a problem voting in mosque because I know it is just a building.

    In my rural area, there are not many large buildings suitable for voting. You do not want thousands of people at school gyms (big saftey issue). People at fire stations could slow down first responders; vacant commercial buildings are not constant from year to year. Unless tax dollars are used to buy buildings that are used a few times a year – using church BUILDINGS makes the most sense.

    November 8, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  10. ronvan

    NO PROBLEM!! First lets define "church". My polling place was a church, but actually done in their gym!! Did you vote in the church itself, or an out building on their property? And you cannot argue the point of "separation between church & state"! Just look at this election and HOW MUCH we heard about religion being thrown in the mix! You cannot have it both ways! For me, the ONLY problem would be if the "church" you were voting at, tried to interact, in any form, to bring religion into the environment! You are there to vote, not get a sermon!

    November 8, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  11. MarkinFL

    Frankly, as a staunch church/state separatist and total atheist, I just can't find a serious problem with a church (or any other sectarian building) being used as a polling place if it is offered for that community purpose.
    It's just a building on election day and it certainly does not impact my vote.

    November 8, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Nathan

      The only real problem in my view are that churches often do leave out technically non-partisan, but very politically-charged materials that voters must pass by like fliers for Adoption Over Abortion or Building A Traditional Family. I would hope for most people it wouldn't matter, but it can be intimidating and unduly influential for some.

      November 8, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  12. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:-–>>>

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    All of these houses of "worthless worship" should be voluntarily converted to recreation facilities, polling places, parks and/or parking lots.

    November 8, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  13. Eliminate hinduism, religions corruption of truth absolute by hindu's lairs, for peace, Islam among humanity.

    We should have polling places in mosques too.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  14. Ford

    I can understand how this can lead to a lot of frustration but I know I live in a small town in Georgia and there just isn't a building big enough for public elections except churches. Hard to believe but it's true! I definitely think if churches can be avoided as polling places they should be though...

    November 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  15. rosethornne

    Religion has absolutely no place in government.

    Likewise, religious places have absolutely no place in government.

    Or, to phrase it more simply, "eeeewwwww ick no!"

    November 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • NClaw441

      We sure have come a long way since the language of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." No action by Congress. No law. No religion established. Seems to me a fair gesture by churches who are tax-exempt. There is virtually no place that would offend SOMEONE who enters. Having to vote in a gymnasium might offend me in that I don't exercise enough, and don't want to be reminded of it. Vegetarians might not want to vote in a cafeteria where meat is sold, etc.

      Too many people seem to be LOOKING to be offended.

      November 8, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  16. Elijah Clark

    This would be unnecessary. Just put them were there is local convenience and not based on a religion of any sort.

    November 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      The churches ARE the local conveniences and has nothing to with the religion of the church.

      November 8, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  17. Bill Haines

    Of course churches shouldn't be polling stations, and usually the only reason they are is that they offer the space "for free" - that is, they set aside their tax-exempt space for public use on Election Day - wow, how nice of them. /snark

    November 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  18. AKARN

    Here in alaska, we do not have enough schools or other buildings. we recently moved to a new district and our polling place was in a church. even as a christian, I felt kind of wierd, but it was kept very professional.

    November 7, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      It's a sad situation when there are more Houses of Delusion than suitable public buildings. . .

      November 8, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • MarkinFL

      OG, true, but that is a different issue.

      November 8, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  19. Lou

    Absolutlely NOT! If we use the church as a vehicle for public processes, we open ourselves, justifiably, for the church to use public facilites for religious processes. To be fair, the church was built with private funds by people professing faith in a particular religion. Public facilites are paid for by all the people, regardless of faith. Get out of the churches and stay out. They do not belong to the public.

    November 7, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually public facilities can be used for religious purposes if they are open for use by groups or individuals.

      November 8, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  20. KJ

    I don't think of it as a big deal, but I have lived on military bases most of my life and the church is used for services on the weekend, training, ceremonies etc during the week. I voted in a church yesterday. Without a minister and a congregation it just seemed like another building to me.

    November 7, 2012 at 7:39 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.