East Hampton school officials are urging the Suffolk County Board of Elections not to use school buildings as polling places come Election Day and have urged other school districts to do the same.
In a letter to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, East Hampton Superintendent Richard Burns cited “concerns for students and staff,” specifically, the mass shooting incidents that have taken place and concerns that a terrorist attack would put them at risk.
This is not a new initiative. School districts have long voiced their displeasure with hosting Election Day polling. Predictably, the issue of mass shootings was raised this time around, a red herring in our opinion. A terrorist attack can occur anywhere at any time from a mall to a bowling alley (the worst in history was a country music concert). Bringing this kind of attention to a school district — that it may be some sort of hot target — is ill advised and an obvious scare tactic. This kind of thing is best discussed behind closed doors.
There a very few places in the average small town that can host an election. Firehouses are often used, for example, but most don’t have the kind of parking needed for a busy polling place to handle a large turnout in a timely manner.
In this case, our emergency services buildings house our fire, ambulance, and some law enforcement vehicles. Is that really a preferable site?
There is more at play here. School officials in almost every district we’ve covered conveniently forget who is footing the bill: we are. The taxpayers own the buildings and the parking lots, yet in too many cases, civic groups have come hat-in-hand with a request to use school property and been made to jump through hoops for permission.
Property owners doled out $70 million to the school district this year. If security is a concern, hire more security personnel on the few days the public needs to make use of their investment.
Of course, the best solution, and one that would cut down on voter fraud, would be electronic voting, and that’s coming soon.
That said, Election Day is the single most important date on the calendar . . . in any democracy. It is the day the future of our country is decided, a chance for every citizen to weigh in and be counted. It is not a day for petulance and selfishness. It should be done at the most convenient location that makes it easiest to get in and out, and clearly, schools are almost always that place.
As if to underscore that this is Silly Season — a term usually applied to politics, allow us a gentle jab at the school board. If you’re worried about the kids being at the schools, tell the student body the grounds are off limits on November 5. No one under 18 allowed.