Since last week’s election, there has been some buzz about the use of schools as polling locations. I understand why they are often designated voting sites – they are usually centrally located, there is parking and interior space – often the gym – for voting booths and staff, and they are (usually) ADA-compliant. But there are real security concerns.
In our previous school district, there was no school for any students on Election Day – whether their school was a polling place or not. I can’t imagine what the traffic would have been like if there were buses arriving and departing and parents dropping off and picking up kids, mixed with students walking to and from school and voters circling the lot looking for a parking space. Having a day off also gave the PTO moms an opportunity to sell baked goods to all of the hungry voters – we paid for our new playground mulch that way! 🙂
In addition to the traffic, there is the disruption to school staff and students, as well as the potential for security issues. Are voters screened before entering the school, and on what basis? Just because someone is a registered voter does not mean that they should have access to an occupied school. Is school staff expected to monitor the exterior doors near the polls, to make sure unauthorized people are not entering? How are voters prevented from wandering the halls? Who checks to make sure egress doors are not blocked and fire doors are not propped open?
The Texas School Safety Center has compiled a checklist of safety guidelines for schools used as polling locations. It includes recommendations to “maintain a ‘heightened awareness’ for suspicious activity,” and “coordinate with campus parent organizations for volunteers to assist the campus in monitoring voter interaction with students.” Given today’s security concerns surrounding schools, I don’t think this is enough.
What do you think? Are schools used for voting in your jurisdiction? If yes, do you know how security and safety were handled on Election Day?
And speaking of voting problems, this news report talks about a poll worker who was accidentally locked in the vestibule of a Brooklyn School. How many times do I have to talk about the importance of free egress?!