The Sedgwick County Voters’ Coalition, concerned that 65 percent of the county’s polling places are churches, has recommended to Election Commissioner Bill Gale that all sites be public facilities. As our editorial argues today, that view seems extreme, "because it assumes there is something about a place of worship that is incompatible with the practice of democracy." But churches increasingly are politically active, and "if a church’s pastor has been out front on a defining election issue, is it appropriate to require citizens, including many who disagree with him, to enter that church in order to cast their votes?" We conclude: "When it comes to making more voters want to vote, the more public and neutral the site, the better."
Another point to ponder: When Stanford University Graduate School of Business researchers recently analyzed polling locations and the outcome of several Arizona ballot initiatives, they found "that environmental cues present in different polling locations can influence voting outcomes." Those who vote at schools are more likely to support higher school spending, those who vote in churches are less likely to vote for stem cell initiatives, etc. "What our research suggests is that it might be useful to further investigate influences such as polling location to better understand how such factors affect different types of voting situations. From a policy perspective, the hope is that a voting location assignment could be less arbitrary and more determined in order to avoid undue biases in the future," said researcher S. Christian Wheeler.
Posted by Rhonda Holman
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