Churches hesitant to serve as polling places following Supervisor of Elections lawsuit against Gateway Christian Center

Photo courtesy North Gainesville Baptist Church


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton filed a lawsuit against a church that served as a polling place, several area churches are asking for additional liability protection before agreeing to serve as a polling place in the future.

The lawsuit requests damages in excess of $50,000 for injuries suffered by Barton when she tripped and fell on stairs at the church while delivering voting materials. 

Pete Rivera, the CFO of North Gainesville Baptist Church, sent a letter to Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton on May 15, noting that churches have willingly provided their facilities for many years, but the lawsuit “brings to light a liability exposure.” The letter requests three things:

  • Physical inspection prior to each use of the facility, with a signed inspection report;
  • Signed lease agreement accepting the facility in its present state, with Alachua County’s liability insurance extended to the church;
  • A Hold Harmless agreement as part of the lease agreement.

The letter from Rivera “serves as notice that North Gainesville Baptist Church is no longer available as a Polling Location, unless the above requests have been met.”

On the same date, Barton sent out a letter to the church, thanking them for their support and their role as a community partner. The letter stated, “To alleviate any liability concerns you may have, all activities associated with administering elections at a polling place during an election, including the Early Voting period and on Election Day, are covered by Alachua County’s insurance.”

Rivera told us that one other church has also decided against serving as a polling place unless the Supervisor provides liability insurance, and at least three more are considering making that decision. Barton told the Alachua County Commission on March 22, 2022, that she was having trouble finding polling places: “I hope people will hear this and know that we’re in need of polling places. Maybe they can reach out to me if they have some ideas.”

Rivera told us that some counties use lease agreements, so we obtained Clay County’s lease agreement for polling places. The agreement states that the Supervisor of Elections office “will accept the condition of the premises in its present state unless otherwise noted” and extends Clay County’s general liability insurance to “cover all liability for negligence attributable to Lessee arising out of the use and occupancy of the premises under this Agreement.” Clay County also provides a stipend of $100 to each polling location “to cover any preparatory or cleaning expenses.”

Barton sent Alachua Chronicle the following statement: “My office works closely with our polling place partners and appreciates their commitment to serving their community. As we have done in the past, my office, in conjunction with Alachua County’s legal department, is working on entering into license agreements with entities that are interested in serving as polling places. We are currently developing the language for those agreements.”

Since Barton indicated her office has used these agreements in the past, we asked Barton about the 2022 election and received the following response: “The last polling place license agreement my office used was in 2022. In conjunction with the Alachua County Legal Department, we are currently working on the 2024 version of the polling place license agreement.”

However, Rivera said North Gainesville Baptist Church had no formal agreement with Alachua County or the Supervisor of Elections office. “It was all verbal,” he said. 

The Supervisor of Elections has not responded to our follow-up questions asking whether there was a written agreement with Gateway Christian Center and requesting a copy of the agreement used in 2022.

  • I don’t blame them when you have an elected government official who is covered by workers comp filing lawsuits against a place that they are using free of charge. It’s a slap in the face. It’s ashamed that voters of Alaucha County elected these type of people into office now let the country buy land built their own polling places

  • Was she really wearing high heels ? What an utter failure for Alachua County.

  • Why expose your business, church, or self to lawsuits from political grifters?

  • These days everything has to be in writing, unfortunately. We can thank billboard lawyers for making Florida a sue-happy lottery state.
    But the contracts should cover pre- and post-election dates related to delivery and pickup of items owned by the SOE office. Not just the voting dates.

    • Billboard lawyers would not have a job if was not for sue happy people wanting a quick retirement and not wanting to work for it

      • Maybe it should be against the law for ambulance chasers to advertise.

    • Not just billboard lawyers, but insurance companies too. Regardless of who was at fault, they make the “business decision” to just settle a case because it’s cheaper than spending the money to defend it. Well guess what, the more you settle, the more likely it is that people will just go for the grab. Sometimes it’s worth it to defend yourself or your business to prove you weren’t negligent.

  • I’ll give Barton one thing…she walks the fine line between incompetence and dishonesty like a pro.

    • Really, how bad was the “fall”? Broken bones which will never heal right due to obviously neglected flooring? Or just a scrape and some rug burn? Suing over something like this is very telling about a person’s moral compass.

      It sounds like she would fit in as Clovis’ right hand partner in deception and mismanagement.

  • I really hope they made Kim Barton take a drug test or observed her for intoxicated behavior after her fall. She has been acting in such a bizarre fashion I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she was drunk when she tripped over the screw. Or maybe she has been abusing some Mommy’s little helper pills.

  • Halfway surprised she is still supervisor of elections after the bad registrations at the jail, not enough ballots at some polling places for 1 election and now this. But it is a Dem county. 🙁

  • “Elections is hard! And walking is hard, too, folks!” They should drug test her hair.

  • Our church (not the one she sued) has served as a polling location for many, many years, adjusting our activities to accommodate set-up and voting, as well as providing the space almost for free. The “rental” fee is only $75, if I remember correctly, and isn’t something we ask for, but is paid automatically by the SOE. It probably doesn’t cover the utilities and cleaning costs.

    We provide the space as a service to the community, despite the many inconveniences associated, because we care and are committed to serving our community. It’s the very reason that churches have been relied upon as polling locations.

    When Kim Barton sued, she put all of the churches in Alachua County on notice that the goodwill only goes in one direction – shame on her for suing. It’s further evidence that respect for people of faith by those in power continues to erode.

    I hope that churches will continue to serve, in spite of Kim Barton’s terrible, selfish behavior. We should continue to do the right thing, even when others mistreat us.

    It is wise to require that the County provide liability insurance for the use of the churches, though.

    Matt 10:16 – “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

    • Our church has served as a polling place for many, many years. We will no longer do so, because of the liability it puts on our church. Because of the precedent she set by suing Gateway Christian Center, any polling place is now liable to every voter, poll worker, election official, or county employee who walks through our doors during an election cycle. We can’t afford the liability.

      • You shouldn’t invite Kim Barton to your house either. God forbid she get zapped by a light switch, slip on the bathroom floor, or get poked by a thorny plant in your garden. You’ll owe her 50 grand or so.

      • How many of these churches/not for profits make “payments in lieu of taxes”. Freeloading? Moral virtue in proselytizing instead of paying your share of the bills?
        Are churches not even paying for property liability insurance for members, guest or events in case in of accidents, they want taxpayers to fund that as well? Come on!
        What is your cost for liability…that you can’t afford?

        • Easy to see your not a believer like most woke idiots
          I am also a taxpayer

  • Kim Barton’s lawsuit against the church is a disgrace! Any church that would continue to agree to serve as a polling place must have rocks in their heads, and foolish parishioners contributing to well-heeled lawyers already very deep pockets.

  • Public libraries, owned by the county, could be a possible option for polling places.

    • that only accounts for 9 locations out of 64 current polling places and 2 f those (Tower Road and Millhopper) already operate as Precincts as well.

  • Jesus overturned the money tables at the temple because that was against Gods law. Jesus never charged for his ministry thus setting an example for Christians. No man should ever get money for something that’s free. Jesus said you received free (from Jesus) you give free. Matthew 10:8 Politics has no place in a religion period. Satan offered the worlds Kingdoms to Jesus because they belonged to him. Matthew 4:8 Jesus only talked about his father’s Kingdom that will soon destroy man’s kingdoms. Daniel 2:44 Matthew 6:10 Gods word doesn’t lie!

  • I guess maybe I’m missing something. Barton says that polling places are covered under Alachua County insurance during voting. She is a county employee. Why in the hell is she filing a lawsuit when her injury, treatment, and salary are covered under workers comp and Alachua County.

    • A early retirement plan just shows the woke voters of wokeville will put anything in office

  • IF KB opens a mail in ballot and get a paper cut who does she sue? The county? The person who mailed the ballot in?

  • Was she there to deliever the Republican Voter Forms she somehow shorted all the precincts. LATE ?? Governor look into her , the ACSB , and the ACC while reauditing the suspects on the City Commssion and staff? We will leave the light on for ya.

  • All the church polling places need to get out of the business and let the AC elections supervisor thrash in the slimey pool she made–unless the churches fear that conservative voters won’t show up to vote in less familiar venues.

  • I believe there is reasonable case for the church to make here. Just my opinion.

    • Hopefully they have video of her wearing high-heels or other unsuitable shoes that are forbidden in some obscure city policy for field work employees. Does she wear glasses / did she have them on at the time, was that the proper entrance, did she violate the weight limit for those shoes, etc.?

      She has *two* personal assistants for her cushy, six-figure government job so I also wonder why she was personally delivering those items in the first place.

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