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Levittown schools cancel events after parents express concern about parolees at polls

Signs direct voters toward the polling place at

Signs direct voters toward the polling place at Division Avenue High School in Levittown on Thursday. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

Levittown school officials canceled evening activities Thursday at 10 of the district's 11 school buildings, including eight that served as polling places, citing a state-driven change in elections policy that lets parolees come onto school grounds in the early evening to vote. 

A notice on the school system's website said the events were canceled after the district received "a number of inquiries from concerned parents” about a new state corrections regulation that allows paroled sex offenders to cast their ballots after 7 p.m. at schools.

The district canceled activities scheduled after 7 p.m. Thursday even in schools where there was no polling, with one exception — Levittown Memorial Education Center, a former high school building that hosts administrative offices and the Gerald R. Claps Career and Technical Center.

The notice told parents that Nassau County's Board of Elections regulates voting procedures as well as access to the district's buildings and that the district was required to follow the regulations.  

A call to Nassau election officials was not returned Thursday. Levittown district officials declined to comment further.

In April, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order to allow up to about 35,000 parolees, including sex offenders, to vote. The order authorized individual, conditional pardons that parolees could bring to their local election boards to re-register to vote.

New York had been one of 22 states where felons lost voting rights during their imprisonment and for a certain period afterward, according to a report in November by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Corrections issued a "special condition" that a paroled sex offender can enter a school to vote but only if he or she receives written permission from his or her parole officer and the district's school superintendent before an election day. The parolee also must give information to their parole officer, before election day, of travel plans to and from a polling place at a school.

Sex offenders on parole also cannot enter schools to vote until 7 p.m. and cannot "remain or loiter" on school grounds after they have voted, the agency's rule said.

As of Thursday, about 29,000 voter pardons had been issued statewide to parolees, including about 2,300 who were sex offenders, the corrections department said.

School districts cannot appeal being designated as a polling place. An action plan to enhance security created by the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, released last month, asked for changes in election law that would let school districts appeal the designation — a right held by some other public buildings, such as firehouses.

“When school building[s] are used as polling locations, they are open to the public and schools are unable to track or control the access to their facilities,” read the association's Blueprint for Action.

"Election Law prohibits the ability of a district to appeal the designation as a polling location, especially in instances where the district has a concern about safety. As the law stands, other public buildings do have the right to an appeal process,” the plan read.

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