The 2018 General Elections took place on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. This story will focus on Elkhart County in Northern Indiana. A county with a population of around 200,000.

In past elections, the County Clerk sent out postcards with polling locations. Over the years, more and more of those locations have been churches. In 2018, 18 out of 27 of our polling locations were Christian Churches. That's, ironically, 66.6% Christian Churches, with no other religions being represented.

NIA sees this as a problem. Can the type of polling place in which people vote (e.g. church, school, or firehouse) influence how they cast their ballot? Results of two studies suggest it can. A field study using Arizonas 2000 general election found that voters were more likely to support raising the state sales tax to support education if they voted in schools, as opposed to other types of polling locations. This effect persisted even when controlling for voters political views, demographics, and unobservable characteristics of those individuals living near schools. A voting experiment extended these findings to other initiatives (i.e. stem cells) and a case in which people were randomly assigned to different environmental primes (i.e. church-related, school-related or generic building images). The present studies reveal that even in noisy, real-world environments, subtle environmental cues can influence decisions on issues of real consequence.

Some of the arguments we heard from within our community were, “If you don’t want to vote at a church, just absentee vote.” Absentee voting is conducted by mail-in ballot before Election Day. Indiana mails a ballot to voters if certain conditions are met. The voter may return the ballot in person or by mail. NIA firmly believes that your religious affiliation or aversion to voting in a church should not disqualify you from participating in a fundamental citicen right like elections.

The polls were open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, and we started out early Tuesday morning. only 6 of the 27 polling locations were non-churches accessible by public transportation.

october 29: spoke to elkhart county clerk’s office and asked about getting permission to take pictures of polling loctions on election day. they said i would need to speak with the county clerk and that he wasn’t available, but they’d pass along my request.

october 29: elkhart county church: taking pix inside vote center is a no. if we have any concerns about locations that should be taken to the elkhart county election board and we’d have to have a meeting but in terms of other legal resource we have, we would need to contact our council. reports of open bible on tables “there is none of that at the pole books, at the tables, or at the - no materal other than election material at the pole books and nothing at machines. if it’s inside the 50 foot chute we do our best to make sure there’s nothing there. trinitiy untied methodist church ends inside the building. “church members can not be inside the 50 foot chute.” it doesn’t happen on election day. “you cannot be within 50 feet of the room where voting takes place.” when you get to the door you will be asked for id and you can not take pictures inside. have you already voted? no. “going from place to place, if we get reports of that, we will handle it as that. uh, and i will take it to the election board and i will take it to the election division. you are not allowed to tkae pictues of the 50 foot chute or within the voting area.”

october 30: phone call to Matthew Kochevar Co General Council Indiana Election Division - i would like to visit churches on election day and capture pictures of any religious iconography or displays that may influence voters subconsciously or otherwise. under state law, polling locations can only be accessed by certain people and outside of those, it would not be legally permissible for anyone to enter a poling location. there’s nothing stoping you from standing outside the 50 foot chute and interviewing voters about what they experienced. file a written complaint with indiana election division.

october 31st: we will need a letter from our editor assigning us to watch the polls and the clerk would issue credentials.

october 31: contacted american atheists about requesting poll watcher credentials from elkhart county clerk.

november 2: picked up media watcher credentials from elkhart county clerk.

NIA

Several of our Vote Center locations are on the Interurban Trolley routes. All associated routes are noted after the location address.

Elkhart Locations (12)*

Trinity United Methodist Church, 2715 E Jackson St, Elkhart

St James AME Church, 122 Dr Martin Luther King Dr, Elkhart (on Green/Red/Orange trolley routes)

River of Life Community Church, 2626 Prairie St, Elkhart (on Green/Orange trolley routes)

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary 3003 Benham Ave. Elkhart

Calvary United Methodist Church, 2222 W Indiana Ave, Elkhart (on Green trolley route)

New Hope United Methodist Church, 28765 CR 4, Elkhart

Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave, Elkhart (on Red trolley route)

Northside Gym, 300 Lawrence St, Elkhart (on Blue trolley route)

Jimtown High School Gym, 59021 County Road 3, Elkhart, IN 46517

Osolo Township Fire Station, 24936 Buddy St., Elkhart, IN 46514 (on Blue trolley route)

Granger Community Church, Elkhart Campus - 2701 E. Bristol St., Elkhart, IN 46514

FOP #52 - 1003 Industrial Parkway, Elkhart, IN 46516 (on Orange trolley route)

Goshen Locations (7)*

Grace Community Church, 20076 CR 36, Goshen

Sugar Grove Church, 58512 Old CR 17, Goshen

Maple City Chapel, 2015 Lincolnway E, Goshen (on Red trolley route)

The Salvation Army, 1013 N Main, Goshen

Faith Lutheran Church, 202 S Greene Rd, Goshen

Greencroft Goshen Community Center, 1721 Greencroft Blvd, Goshen (on Red trolley route)

Pleasant View Church, 58529 CR 23, Goshen

Dunlap Locations (1)

Elkhart County Public Services Bldg, 4230 Elkhart Rd, Goshen (on Red trolley route)

New Paris Locations (1)

New Paris Missionary Church, 67621 SR 15, New Paris

Millersburg Locations (1)

Millersburg Fire Station, 500 Carriage Ln, Millersburg

Middlebury Locations (1)

Middlebury Town Hall, 418 N Main St, Middlebury

Nappanee Locations (1)

First Brethren Church, 1600 N Main St, Nappanee

Wakarusa Locations (1)

Bible Baptist Church, 205 E Waterford St, Wakarusa

Bristol Locations (2)

Bristol United Methodist Church, 201 S Division St, Bristol

First Baptist Church, 53953 CR 17, Bristol

Bible Baptist Church

205 E Waterford St | Wakarusa, IN 46573

  • Promoting church social media on sign.

  • Bible devotionals throughout chute.

  • Bible scripture on the wall in chute.

 

Bristol United Methodist Church

201 S Division St | Bristol

  • Promoting church on sign.

  • Bible devotionals sitting out in chute.

  • Scripture verse art on the wall next to Voter’s Rights Poster in chute.

  • Large cross quilt in voting room.

 

Calvary United Methodist Church

2222 W Indiana Ave | ELKHART, IN 46516

  • Religious signage with voting instructions inside chute.

  • Bible devotionals sitting out in chute.

  • Church event schedule inside chute.

 

Faith Lutheran Church

202 S Greene Rd | GOSHEN, IN 46526

  • Religious art inside chute.

  • Church services information at voting check-in.

  • Large nativity art in voting room.

 

First Baptist Church

53953 CR 17 | Bristol, IN 46507

  • Giant cross as you approach voting location.

  • Hymns playing [Amazing Grace] at entrance of voting location inside chute.

  • Church program info at check-in.

 

First Brethren Church

1600 N Main St | NAPPANEE, IN 46550

  • Bibles, bracelets, devotionals, and information out in chute for voters to take.

  • Voters had to wait in sanctuary.

  • Scriptures on wall throughout chute.

  • Lots of bulletin boards, signage, and church information.

 

Grace Community Church

20076 CR 36 | GOSHEN,IN 46526

  • Religious signage throughout chute.

  • Church program info on tables in chute.

  • Church info and free flyers for voters in chute.

  • Large religious signage in voting room.

 

Granger Community Church, Elkhart Campus

2701 E. Bristol St | ELKHART, IN 46514

  • Large Bloody Jesus painting in chute.

  • Bible verses on posters in chute

  • Coffee bar and bookstore open.

  • Television displaying messages and church info.

 

Maple City Chapel

2015 Lincolnway E | GOSHEN, IN 46526

  • 9th Annual “Caring for the Heart” Conference was taking place in the voting room at the same time voters were voting. Which promised “You will be refreshed in worship and fellowship among other believers.”

  • On the other side of the room from where voters were voting, the coffee bar was open and voters walked through the conference to get coffee.

  • Staff at coffee bar gave information on the conference and bookstore.

  • Bookstore was open in voting room.

  • Books, tapes, goods for sale at convention tables in voting room.

  • Religious conference attendees were seated at tables next to voting booths with screens clearly visible.

  • Bathroom open to voters had religious messages.

 

New Hope United Methodist Church

28765 County Road 4 | ELKHART, IN 46514

  • Religious signage and artwork all along voting line.

  • Religious artwork throughout chute.

  • 10 commandments stone tablet display visible to voters.

  • Voters waiting in sanctuary to vote.

 

New Paris Missionary Church

67621 SR 15 | NEW PARIS, IN 46553

  • Church sign about jesus and defeating the enemy.

  • Voters lined up inside sanctuary.

  • Bread basket next to voter instructions in chute.

  • Devotional for men in bread basket next to Voter Training book in chute.

  • Photo ID check-in station & candidate book on table with Women’s Ministries banner.

 

Pleasant View Church

58529 CR 23 | GOSHEN, IN 46528

  • Bible verse on church sign.

  • Church information signs next to voter instructions inside chute.

 

River of Life Community Church

2626 Prairie St | ELKHART, IN 46517

  • 10 Commandments in entrance.

  • Religious signage throughout chute.

  • Bible verse banner in voting room.

 

St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church

122 Dr Martin Luther King Dr | ELKHART, IN 46516

  • We were asked for donations as soon as we walked in the door.

  • Religious signage throughout the chute.

  • Tree of crosses.

 

Sugar Grove Church

58512 Old CR 17 | GOSHEN, IN 46528

  • Crosses everywhere, including the bathroom.

  • Church information inside voting room.

  • Jesus coffee inside voting room.

 

The Salvation Army

1013 N Main St | GOSHEN,IN 46528

  • Giant cross as you approach voting location.

  • Hymns playing [Amazing Grace] at entrance of voting location inside chute.

 

Trinity United Methodist Church

2715 E Jackson St | ELKHART, IN 46516

  • Lots of religious signs, bibles, and iconography throughout line and chute.

  • Church activities advertised on television screen.