BERLIN – Handicapped access issues and parking problems may prompt the town of Berlin to switch the District 1 and 2 election polling station from Berlin Town Hall to a local church.
“During the last election, we had a lot of complaints about not enough parking, complaints about the chair lift,” Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary said.
The three council members in attendance at Monday night’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting barely made a quorum, and with two members missing, decided to table the matter for further discussion.
There is little parking and no elevator at Berlin Town Hall.
Wheelchair access to the second floor, where voters cast their ballots in the town council chamber, is provided through a chair lift
“The chair lift works, but it’s very slow and cumbersome,” said Bambary.
There were also some concerns about the proximity of the polling place to town business. Candidates are required to stay away from the direct vicinity of the voting machines, which is difficult in town hall during a town election.
During a recent election, Councilwoman Paula Lynch said, “My husband had a lot of trouble getting up the stairs.”
Staff has suggested moving the polling place from Berlin Town Hall to Buckingham Presbyterian Church, at 20 S. Main St., approximately a tenth of a mile away.
The church would charge the town only $250 for use of meeting space.
“This would also remove the election process from the home of the elected officials,” said Bambary.
The move made sense to Lynch, who said, “They have the handicap ramp, the parking.”
Last year, after the fall 2006 elections, County Commissioner Virgil Shockley suggested adding a county polling station at a church in Libertytown, near Berlin. Some voters in the northern part of county District 4 traveled 18 miles to vote, Shockley said, which is a hardship. His district, which is long and narrow and covers 46 percent of the county landmass, is the largest district in the county
“Personally, I have a problem with the holding of an election in a church. I don’t know if I can vote on that or not,” said council member Elroy Brittingham. “It’s a personal problem.”
Brittingham said he had never heard of using a church as a polling place.
An unidentified audience member told the council church meeting rooms are often used as polling places.