Berlin Moves Polling Place to Church

BERLIN – Berlin’s District 1 and 2 voters will cast their ballots for the fall Presidential election at Buckingham Presbyterian Church, not the council chambers at Berlin Town Hall.

The Berlin Town Council voted on Monday night to recommend the permanent change in polling place from town hall to the nearby church, citing better handicap access and more parking.

Council member Elroy Brittingham cast the lone opposed vote this week.

Brittingham, who led the last town council meeting during the absence of the Mayor, and council members Ellen Lang and Paula Lynch agreed to table the issue for discussion by the full council at the last meeting. Two council members were absent that night.

At the last February meeting, Brittingham said, “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.”

Mayor Tom Cardinale, who does not have a vote, concurred with Brittingham. “I have a personal problem with it,” Cardinale said.

Others pointed out there was precedent for using a place of worship. “The county used for decades the Mount. Olivet Church Hall,” said council vice president Gee Williams pointed out.

Salisbury largely uses churches as polling places, Lang said.

As an alternative, Lang suggested the Berlin Volunteer fire company. That could be a fire safety issue, complicating the fire company’s response to emergencies, said town administrator Linda Bambary.

Cardinale suggested using the multi-purpose building on Flower St. for an all district polling place when the new multi-purpose building is completed in a few years time

The Multi-Purpose building does not have adequate parking, Williams said.

“I think it’s important you keep the polling places in the district as much as you can for people who walk or don’t drive,” Lang said.

“Anything would be better than town hall,” said Cardinale.

The church has a new handicapped access ramp, said Lynch.

“I think we should do everything we can to make it look more accessible to vote,” Williams said.

The change is not yet official.

“The code provides the Board of Supervisors of Elections shall provide for suitable places,” said Berlin town attorney Dave Gaskill.

According to Tony Bowen, elections board chair, the elections board must now vote on the council’s recommendation.