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Pro-family posters upset one Prop. 8 voter

After posters on a church wall upset a young man voting no on Prop. 8, the impartiality of two precinct polling places has been called into question

The series of posters were hung on a wall behind voting cubicles at First Baptist Church, 500 Buena Vista Drive, and described traditional marriage roles.

The posters did not explicitly promote voting yes on Prop. 8, but carried essentially the same message, the voter, Roman Scanlon, said.

A Supreme Court ruling bans politicking in or within 100 feet of a polling place.

Scanlon and his mother went in to the polling place to vote just before noon. As he was completing his ballot, he realized people were looking up to read posters just beyond his voting cubicle. He saw posters for the Marriage and Family Ministry that defined the role of man and woman, husband and wife, he said.

“I was shocked. I thought, ‘You have to be kidding me,’” Scanlon said. “I turned to my mom and I said, ‘Can you believe this?’”

Scanlon snapped some shots of the board as he was being verbally forced out of the area, he said.

He asked that the posters be covered, but poll workers said they would not do anything to cover the board.

Joyce Bayne, the precinct inspector, said the sign was up when she and other volunteers arrived last night to set up the voting booths. She said she didn’t know if it was a permanent fixture of the church.

An open hallway in the church actually serves as polling place for both the 22nd and 29th precincts in Merced. The voting booths for precinct 22, where Scanlon lives, directly face the display.

Bayne said the blanket was removed after her husband, Richard, received confirmation from the County Office of Elections that the signs were permissible. Richard is the inspector for Merced Precinct 29.

An operator at the Secretary of State’s election hotline said similar issues are a “hot topic” statewide today. He said the situation sounded like a “close call” and an investigator would be sent out.

Shortly after noon when the Sun-Star arrived at the church, a green blanket flung over the hefty display covered the posters. Less than an hour later, they were again out in the open, though some of the posters were no longer included in the montage.

Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

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