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Churches welcome new role in elections

August 01, 2012 - Most of the time, churchgoers are not supposed to judge others, but on August 7, registered voters who arrive at North Oaks Community Church are expected to do so. North Oaks on Ortonville Road is home to Precincts 3 and 4 on Election Day.

"Part of our mission is to serve the community," said North Oaks Pastor Steve Brown who was happy to make the building available for Township elections. Brown's church has two entrances, one upstairs and one on the lower level where voters will enter depending on their precinct.

Clerk Barbara Pallotta chose to move polling places from schools to churches to increase safety. Church buildings are less likely to be crowded during the day, and they offer ample parking for voters. Many voters will be casting their ballots at churches while others like Pastor Brown will use the library.

North Oaks Community Church has about 125 parking spaces, and they have "cleared the church calendar," to make sure there's plenty of space on Election Day, said Pastor Brown. Of the 26,599 registered voters in the township, Precinct 3 has 2,073 and Precinct 4 has 1,937.

While there may be a few church staff around while voters cast their ballots, the township is providing the equipment and election inspectors. "We just want to be out of their way," said Pastor Brown. From his perspective, the church "becomes township space" during the election. "We firmly support the separation of church and state," said Brown.

On Election Day, six inspectors will be at each precinct and one chairperson will oversee the process, said Clerk Pallotta. To ensure each vote is counted accurately, all of the inspectors have had extensive training and the "equipment is proven to be reliable and accurate," Pallotta stated.

While she notes, "there's always a learning curve," Pallotta has placed volunteers at the old polling stations to be sure anyone who shows up to vote can be pointed in the right direction. Signs will be posted to aid citizens as they take part in the election too. Pallotta has also asked the Sheriff's department for help, and they will be driving around each precinct.

The polls will be open from 7a.m.- 8p.m. Besides choosing candidates, voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the Oakland County Art Institute's request for .2 mills. Citizens will also decide on a renewal of the 3.1688 millage for Fire and Emergency services and on a request for a .59 mill increase for the Fire Department.

To find out if you need to cast your ballot at a new polling station, check www.twp.independence.mi.us.

Clarkston News reporter
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