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Greendale trustees, school board discuss polling location options

May 13, 2014

Greendale — A joint-meeting between Greendale's board of trustees and school board on May 6 ended inconclusively as the panel of officials discussed the issue of school buildings as polling places.

The joint meeting, held in the Greendale Safety Center, was the first of its kind between the two governing bodies in most recent history, many officials stated.

Although discussed in years past, concerns about locating polling places in Greendale schools resurfaced at a school board meeting last December, when Highland View PTO members asked the board to move the polls somewhere else.

Currently, all three of the district's grade schools and the high school are used as polling places.

Highland View PTO President Aleks Skibicki argued decreased security during election days placed students and faculty in danger.

"I don't understand why (we don't) move the polling places outside the schools," Skibicki said at the joint-meeting. "Any other location would still be in Greendale and would be local and accessible by law … (but) voting in schools hinders the schools' ability to educate our students in a safe and secure environment."

Skibicki said the polling place disrupted classes, posed traffic control problems and, most importantly, increased risk for possible violence or abductions because of public access to the buildings during elections.

"What specifically has to happen to move the elections out of the schools?" he asked the boards. "Once we know what has to be done, we can get done doing it. We're all willing to help. We'll do it; just show us the light."

Not that simple

According to federal law, elections must be held in locations that meet specific standards, such as available parking, building occupancy and accessibility for the disabled and elderly.

Moving polling places from schools to less accessible locations could disenfranchise voters, said Greendale Clerk-Treasurer Kathryn Kasza, who oversees the village's election services.

"We have looked at other locations, but you always have to look at the worst case scenario (during big elections)," Kasza said. "The number of public places the village has that can accommodate 3,000 to 5,000 people is very limited ... We just want to make sure people can come in, get their voting done and leave."

Before moving polling places from schools, "I would ask that you think about the impact on the voter during large elections," she added.

The village had considered the Hose Tower Building and a potential community room addition to the fire station, but those projects would take time, said Village Manager Todd Michaels.

"It's not hard for me to agree that (we should) move polling places from the schools as a parent," Michaels said, "but what's hard for me, as village manager, is to find a place to put them. Most of our buildings are small and (the alternatives) would either take time or make it more difficult to vote."

Other possibilities included shifting the school schedule so that students would have off-days during elections.

No action was taken at the joint meeting, but both boards agreed to meet more regularly to find a solution.

"The hard part about this is we're pitting good against good," said school board member Victoria McCormick. "It's good to have our children safe and secure and it's good to have our citizens to be able to vote. So, that's what makes the decision-making process more difficult ... but we need to find a way to make it work."

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