Proposal to Remove Polling Places from Schools

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STATELINE (WIFR) -- Most area election polling places are no longer in schools, due to fears of sex offenders coming near children, but now a state proposal suggests polls be removed from schools altogether. The change could put pressure on local election offices.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy in Rockford is the only school the city of Rockford uses as a polling place. Teachers there say they use Election Day as a learning tool.

"They can see how their community is getting involved in community issues as well as how one person, one vote can certainly make a difference,” said Kristina Dahl, a teacher at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

However, a proposal in Springfield could bar all schools in Illinois from being used as a polling location.

The measure, which focuses on the safety of the students, comes in the wake of December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

But OLSH administrators say they take extra safety precautions on election day. Voters enter the building through an outside cafeteria door and all other doors are locked.

"There's no interaction between our downstairs public as well as the students being upstairs,” said Dahl.

Taking the polls out of the schools will also cause problems for the Winnebago County Board of Elections. The only school they use as a polling place is in Shirland, where Board Director Margie Mullins says it is hard to find other polling places.

"The only reason we use that school is because it is in a township where there is not a lot of other buildings available that we can use,” said Mullins.

Mullins says they’ll have to actually go out to Shirland and see what kind of buildings are there. Some other options she says could be either a church or the township office.

The only other county that would be affected if this proposal was approved, would be Boone County. It currently uses two schools. One is out in the country and they’re worried about finding another site that could work.

We also asked what elections directors said about the safety of schools. They say it’s not something they’re worried about and that the safety at schools or at any polling place has never really been a problem in this area.

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