City proposing using churches as voting centers

Posted at: 04/24/2013 6:22 PM
Updated at: 04/24/2013 6:23 PM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The city of Albuquerque is on the hunt for voting locations that are large enough to handle the crowds.

But an idea that will soon be proposed is already drawing criticism.

The city of Albuquerque has a plan for the upcoming October city election.

The city clerk’s office wants to add polling locations at large or mega churches like Hoffmantown Church in Northeast Albuquerque.

"All we're providing is the building, the parking lot, ease of accessibility and I think it helps people. It allows them to vote in an expeditious manner," said Dave Jarvis, Director of Operations at Hoffmantown Church.

The city is looking at four churches including Hoffmantown, Copper Point, Desert Springs, and Paradise Hills United Methodist.

"I think it'll cause complications between church and state," said one voter.

But others like the idea.

"Sure, I think it would be good opportunity for people to go to a place where it's easier to park," said another man.

City Clerk Amy Bailey says it’s about finding large buildings to accommodate voters.

The city council, which votes to approve polling locations, will have to sign off on the idea first.

"I know it's becoming hard for the city clerk's office or the county clerk's office to find these polling places but I think to use a mega church as a polling place would be a violation of church and state and we would be probably see some lawsuits,” said City Councilor Ken Sanchez.

But it is perfectly legal to use churches as polling places, says the city.

Albuquerque has used churches as polling places in the past as well.

The ACLU says they don’t have a problem with the city using churches as polling stations, as long as people are not discriminated against.

Sanchez says the proposal will likely go before the city council this summer.