“You can count on Jesus. He keeps his promises.” Ann Arbor voters entering St. Lukes’ Lutheran Church on Washtenaw Avenue were greeted last Tuesday with large red, white and blue signs urging them to choose Jesus. Voters complained to the Ann Arbor News about feeling uncomfortable in the situation. They stated that religious signs, such as the ones at the church, distracted them while voting. Church officials report that they had placed similar signs during previous elections in order to “remind passersby that the Lord should be first and foremost in their lives.”

Churches and other places of religious worship are often used as polling places since they are centrally located, and usually have large halls and parking lots, which makes them very convenient for voters. In exchange for the space, these locations are tax-exempt, therefore increasing the incentives to host the elections. The Michigan Election Law, Act 116, established criterion for polling places, allowing for the legislature to rent places to host the elections if schools, fire departments, and other such public places were not available.

Regardless of the location, Michigan Election Law section 744 states that no signs promoting a particular candidate are allowed within 100 feet of an entrance to a voting site. Political neutrality inside the voting area is no longer enough; There must also be no religious stances at the polling places. Voters must feel welcome at any location and religious places often do not provide that comfort for those not of a particular religion and sect. In order to avoid these circumstances, religious sites such as churches should not be used as polling places; Instead, the city should try to find different locations to host the elections.

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