Select churches throughout the Top of Utah could see more visitors on Election Day than they do on any Sunday.
Numerous churches in Weber and Davis counties have been designated as polling locations for the Nov. 6 general election so as to serve the masses -- in this case voters.
The move is to give voters an accessible, safe, recognizable building with ample parking and the space needed to cast ballots, officials said.
Casting a ballot at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints local ward house or any other denominational church is nothing new for Davis voters, who have been doing it for years as a result of an increasing population.
In Davis County, 13 percent of the Nov. 6 polling locations will be in churches. That figure is a few percentage points higher than the percentage of churches normally used as polling locations in Davis County, according to election officials.
But in Weber County, with 45 percent of its polling locations in churches on Election Day, an email was sent to the 500 poll workers, giving them the information they need should voters raise a concern over having to cast their ballot in a church.
Weber County Elections Director Jennifer Morrell said it was decided to share the reasoning behind using more churches, because poll workers are "the face of the county" on Election Day.
It was explained that churches meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, provide adequate space for the voting machines and voters, offer a central and recognizable location in a neighborhood, provide ample parking and reduce the number of polling locations being placed in elementary schools, which reduces the risk to students.
"Parents and school district employees have expressed concern that on Election Day, individuals can enter the schools without having to obtain a visitor's pass, often walking through unobserved hallways to get to the polling location," the email reads.
Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch said, "Weber County has used churches in the past. We are just increasing the number. Their characteristics suit our needs so well."
Initially, the county struggled with the decision to use more churches, because an LDS candidate for president is on the ballot and his faith is part of the state's predominant religion, Hatch said.
"That perception is a toughie," he said.
But after doing research, Hatch said, the county moved forward with the idea based on the percentage of churches being used as polling locations across the nation.
Roughly 30 percent of all polling locations in the U.S. are in churches or church-sponsored schools, including 22 percent of the polling locations in Berkeley, Calif., Hatch said.
"Churches are phenomenal for voting locations," he said.
The buildings provide ample room for the crowds and prevent poll workers from having to contend with student foot traffic, which can be a problem when the polling location is in a school.
"The Weber School District is really good to work with," Hatch said. "Sometimes it's a matter of logistics, and they just don't have the room."
But there are those who oppose the practice.
The county already has received about 20 calls from voters concerned about churches serving as polling locations, a handful of those voters remaining upset even after being given an explanation as to why it was done, Hatch said.
But with the county having about 110,000 active registered voters, county officials say they are receiving a minimal number of complaints.
"When people don't want to go into a church, they have very valid concerns," Hatch said.
He said he would only remind those voters of the other options available to them, such as early voting or voting by mail.
"It's wise on (Weber County's) part to address the issues," Davis County Chief Deputy/Administration Terry Tremea said of Weber's decision to share its reasoning with its election judges.
Davis officials, however, won't be providing its 647 poll workers with the same information, as using churches as polling locations has been a longtime practice in Davis County for many of the same reasons Weber County is using more churches.
To make it easier on voters, Tremea said, when using a church the polls are set up in the social or cultural halls of the building, avoiding chapels altogether.
"Generally you can access (the polls) right off the street."