Rigged elections. Vigilante observers. Angry voters. The claims, threats, and passions surrounding the presidential race have led communities around the country to move polling places out of schools or cancel classes on Election Day.
The fear is that the ugly rhetoric of the campaign could escalate into confrontations and even violence in school hallways, endangering students.
School officials point to the recent firebombing of a Republican Party office in North Carolina and the shooting-up of another with a BB gun as the type of trouble they fear.
Some of those anxieties have been stoked byGOP nominee Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and his appeal to supporters to stand guard against fraud at the polls. Some administrators are worried about clashes between the self-appointed observers and voters.
Schools are popular polling places because they typically have plenty of parking and are usually centrally located. It’s difficult to say how many school-based polling places have been moved this year, given how decentralized the voting process is. But state and local officials say voting has been removed or classes have been canceled on Election Day at schools in Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.
“There is a concern, just like at a concert, sporting event, or other public gathering, that we didn’t have 15 or 20 years ago. What if someone walks in a polling location with a backpack bomb or something?” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the co-chairman of the National Association of Secretaries of State election committee.
John Reinhart, the schools superintendent in Easton, Pa., wanted to get voting out of schools altogether but was rebuffed by county election officials. So the school board canceled classes.
Election officials say that removing schools as polling places creates logistical headaches and voter confusion.
“We wouldn’t be able to conduct voting without them,” said Pam Anderson, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.
A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2016 edition of Education Week as Fearing Election Day Trouble, Some Schools Cancel Classes