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OpinionEditorial

School voting-site issue offers an opportunity for reform

Voters fill in their paper ballots at Wisdom

Voters fill in their paper ballots at Wisdom Middle School in Levittown on Election Day in November 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

School security is a crucial priority on Long Island and has garnered increasing attention and funding as deadly shootings have become tragically common around the nation.

Voting is a crucial priority, too, and schools, with their accessible locations, plentiful parking and big gyms are ideal places for polls.

So how do education officials safely deal with the fact that on election days, the schools they’ve worked so hard to secure with guards, vetting, cameras and restricted entries must welcome everyone?

That’s a question district leaders and principals are asking, but one answer being pushed, state legislation to let schools refuse to be polling places, isn’t wise. About 70 percent of polling places in Nassau and Suffolk counties are in schools, and many voters have cast their ballots at the same one for decades.

In some states, Election Day is a public holiday: Why not here? Many districts make November’s general election a teacher development day — kids stay home — which makes sense and might be the quickest solution. Multiple primaries are an issue, too, but 49 states hold all non-presidential primaries on the same day and having ours on one day, during summer break, could resolve that problem.

Another help would be voting reforms and technology. Adding a weekend voting day would cut Tuesday crowds, making security easier to address if kids are in school. So would easy access to absentee ballots for any reason. So would using biometrics to allow remote voting.

But for now, we need to be able to vote in local schools. More should be done to keep kids at home on Election Day. And if voter reforms can reduce the Tuesday crowds, school districts should be able to handle these elections as easily as the ones they control and aren’t trying to move, the mid-May votes on school boards and budgets — The editorial board

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