DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — There are regulations when it comes to signs or any campaign items at polling locations in Ohio. Now, a local church has displayed a sign causing voters to question if it was a violation of polling location rules.
First Grace Church on Stone Quarry Road in Dayton has been a polling location for two years and saw an uptick in the number of people coming to the polls.
This year they stood out more, with a sign in the front of the church reading “vote yes on Issue 1.” This raised some flags for some when it comes to endorsing candidates or issues at polling locations.
Brenda Jackson, the wife of the lead pastor of Grace Church and a manager for the polling site, said they typically do not get involved when it comes to political issues, but Issue 1 was different.
“This is a moral issue, and as a church, we believe that it’s important to God,” Jackson said. “It’s important that we take a stand for moral issues. We don’t normally get political on any score, but this is moral. This is an issue of life.”
According to Ohio law, no signs can be displayed within 100 feet of the polling location, but outside of the that, signs or tables for campaigns may be set up. Even pamphlets may be distributed to those walking in or leaving the location. Churches are not exempt from this rule.
“It doesn’t make any difference because for the purposes of voting places, churches are just like any other building,” Dr. Marc Clauson of Cedarville University said. “They opened their building as a polling place, not as any in any way related to a church. So, they apply just the same there.”
Voter Makenna Johnson believes all the ads for Issue 1 played a role in voter turnout.
“I think a lot of people were getting out there and just telling people to get out and vote a specific way,” Johnson said. “I felt like there were ways that people were kind of influencing of how you should vote, and it didn’t persuade my decision.”
Dr. Clauson said the law does not specifically say what defines a polling location. Is it where the actual voting machines are located or the property where the polls are being held? He said this is something that would have to be determined in court.