Voting: Convenience Is a Want, But Safety Is a Need

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For students attending LHS, primary elections mean a day off from school, but for some smaller elections, school remains in session as gymnasiums and other rooms district-wide, all the way down to the elementary schools, are taken over by voters. However, administrators, parents, and teachers have been advocating for the end of voting in school buildings due to an executive order that re-enfranchised parolee sex offenders, consequently giving them the right to step on school grounds to vote.

Voting currently takes place in schools because it is a convenient location for community members to make their voice heard in local, state, and national elections. Schools are government buildings with a sufficient amount of parking space and easy access for people with disabilities. However, the issue of safety for students and voters has come into question for Lynbrook residents and Board of Education members.

Opposers to voting in school buildings argue that it compromises the safety of teachers and students present during voting hours. This concern has been intensified with the recent surge of mass school shootings, along with the passing of Governor Cuomo’s recent bill allowing sex offenders out on parole to vote, meaning that these criminals and potential dangers to the community are legally allowed on school grounds during the voting period. Unlike the normal school day, where all entrances are locked and visitors are not permitted access without a scheduled appointment, anyone can enter and exit the school as they please, which has many students worried. “I don’t feel safe when voting is taking place during school because while there may be some basic security measures taken, there aren’t enough,” said freshman Emme Paladino. Contrastingly, History Teacher Olga Zisel commented that “everything worked well in the past, so I’m not worried.”

The BOE has been pushing to remove voting from its schools for many years but has yet to succeed. Superintendent Melissa Burak, one of the leaders of the movement, has been pushing to remove voting from schools within the district since she first became superintendent during the 2012-2013 school year. Dr. Burak agrees that voting in schools jeopardizes the safety of students: “The primary reason [to have voting removed from taking place in schools] is safety…every time an unfortunate attack occurs, it just brings the issue back to the surface.” Dr. Burak has met with the attorneys from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the Board of Elections to discuss the removal of voting from the schools, but her opposition in unwilling to concede.

The debate over the removal of voting from schools has been ongoing for many years, only gaining momentum over time with heightened concerns over school shootings. The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) Bill, which is part of the election laws, provides districts the ability to remove voting from taking place in school buildings, but clearly, the districts do not act alone is this area; otherwise, there would be no voting in any Lynbrook schools.

So far, Dr. Burak has managed to remove the voting polls in Marion Street, keeping voting exclusively at Lynbrook North and South Middle Schools. “This was a giant step forward, and I believe that if the district keeps fighting to have voting removed from schools, it eventually will be,” commented Burak. “We [The District of Lynbrook] has hired security…because safety is our number one priority.” Dr. Burak ensures that the safety of students has and will always be the school board’s and administration’s top priority. She is confident that with time, voting will cease to take place inside Lynbrook schools.

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