Polling place location rescinded by church

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Just over a week after the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 6 to 1 to approve the relocation of the Bacon/Saxe District polling place from its current location of Southhall Community Building to New Hope Methodist Church the church has now rescinded the offer to use the building.

“While New Hope United Methodist Church has sent us a letter rescinding their offer to use their fellowship hall as a polling place, we are looking into our other options,” Voter Registrar Nan Lambert said. “The fact remains Southhall Community Building is not a viable place. Fortunately, there are other opt ions open to the Electoral Board and Registrar’s office.”

According to Lambert she received a letter addressed to her from Joan Tuck, administrative council chair at New Hope United Methodist Church, who explained the church’s actions.

The letter said a member of the church opposed the building being used as a polling place.

“A member of the church who does not regularly attend administrative council meetings began a ‘campaign’ (for lack of a better word) to force a vote to rescind this voting location change.

At an emergency called council meeting on Friday night March 13, regarding the COVID-19 virus and its implications on our church services, the member forced the church council to address the voting precinct change issue. This marked change in agreement was unexpected to those who had attended the previous three council meetings wherein the topic was discussed?”

Tucks letter went on to say that the end result was that a motion was made, seconded and approved by a majority of those at the meeting to disallow the use of the building.

“I personally did not agree with this and strongly stated my views that the time to discuss this would have been at the previous three council meetings at church and/or when the first announcement of a decision to move the polling location was beingvoted on by the board of supervisors,” Tuck wrote.

In Tucks letter to Lambert she apologized for the action of the members saying, “I ask that you accept my humble apology for the actions of members of my church and know that there are many who fully supported the use of our building for a community and civic need such as this. I am personally embarrassed to have to write this letter and explain the circumstances of this decision. The mission of our church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and to be a beacon of light in our community, not to gain a negative image or negative reputation in our community.”

During its December meeting, the BOS was informed that a new location was needed due to building, parking and heating issues.

During its January meeting of the BOS a public hearing was held to hear citizens’ comments on the proposed relocation.

No one addressed the BOS, and due to the lack of public participation at the hearing, supervisors decided to table the decision to try and receive more public input.

During its February meeting, supervisors tabled the vote citing a need to determine if ramps into the building were ADA compliant.

During the March 9 meeting of the BOS Will Garnett, who represents the Bacon/Saxe district, said the BOS had learned that one of the ramps into the current polling place was ADA compliant, but that a second ramp was not.

Garnett, who made the motion Monday to accept the electoral board’s recommendation to relocate the polling place, said in the Jan. 15 edition of The Charlotte Gazette that he had spoken with around 40 individuals who vote in the district and many were not in favor of the move.