Members of the Southern Colorado Ministerial Union are demanding answers because they feel like they were left out when the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office chose its 112 polling place in preparation for the November 6 general election.
The group’s leaders who are traditionally Black churches voiced their concerns to county commissioners on Thursday, saying that hey were not showing enough sensitivity to minorities in their selection of polling places.
The church leaders pointed out that 48 churches were chosen and yet not a single one of their 18 churches was among the 48 that were chosen.
The pastors also requested that commissioners open early voting locations near downtown in addition to the already selected three locations.
The board seemed to ignore the demands of the church leaders and went on to unanimously approve the polling place changes that excluded the Black churches. Rev. James H. McMearn of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Fountain spoke out saying that the commission ignored their concerns, remarking:
“I was born and raised in the South in Crockett, TX in the ’40′s and the ’50′s and I think that there’s no difference today than when I was 18 years old.”
Alissa Vander Veen, the Chief Deputy for Clerk and Recorders Office denied that the Black churches were being excluded and even denied having heard of their concerns. According to Vander Veen, the polling place selection process began in March and since then, no one had told her about the concerns of the Black church leaders.
“This is the most open the process has been where we really reached out to both (political) parties and pretty much anybody that we felt was affected and we were relying on those organizations to reach out to their participating members to make sure that they were raising all the concerns that they had,” she said.
Vander Veen pointed out that less churches were being used because the group Common Cause had also complained that here were too many churches in use as poll places. She went on to say that she appreciated the concerns of SCMU but it was probably too late to change any of the locations.