The New York Times has a story today about schools closing on election day because of safety concerns. I want to add three points about this issue.
First, Mike and I had a long talk with a Southern California principal of an elementary school on election day and she was very very concerned about her school being a polling place. She basically lost control of access to her property on election day and did not know who these people are who were coming onto the property. (I took a photograph of a “Voting” sign and was accosted, rightly, by her staff.) I know what some of you are thinking–a convicted pedophile wouldn’t be allowed to vote, necessarily. However, the problem is that such a person could come onto her campus and she wouldn’t be able to distinguish between that person and a voter. (Let alone a simple thief and a voter).
Second, schools are generally lousy polling places when schools are open. Why? They are noisy, they have lousy parking (teachers have the audacity to park there!), they generally are heavily trafficked in the morning, when people aer starting to vote, and they often have limited levels of disabled accessibility. Mike and I have been to polling places at schools where the disabled access required a voter to go all the way around the building and through a locked gate to vote (locked gate is exceptional, going around the building is not).
Third, closing schools is a great idea if the election officials can turn the principal and teachers into poll workers. Mike and I saw the smartness of this in Estonia, where voting is done in schools and is done with the principal and teachers as a polling staff team. (They vote on Sunday, so school being in session isn’t an issue). These people are used to working together so it worked very very well.