116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It's the illogical question that won't go away. Like wondering if you've left the iron on back at home. More than that, even. It's like obsessing about it even though you've never owned an iron.
The question: Is it safe to for schools to serve as polling places? The answer, simply: Yes. So why can't we let it go?
Earlier this spring, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller asked Cedar Rapids school officials if they would consider holding inservice days during elections so students wouldn't be around when all those strangers parade through to vote.
Eleven of Linn County's 86 polling places are in school buildings - which we've started locking down tighter than Tiffany's on every other school day. Miller's concerned that allowing voters into the public buildings might put the students at risk.
He's not alone. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert has told reporters he has similar reservations. In a Des Moines Register article last week, school and elections officials from all over the state echoed the two men's unease. It seems irrational worry is part of a national trend.
All these “strangers” we are so skeptical of are adults from the surrounding neighborhood, popping in and out to perform their civic duty. If they're really all that dangerous, we'd better start sending armored cars to pick up every student morning and afternoon and deliver them door to door.
I suppose it's true that weirdos from some other neighborhood could waltz right into the school on Election Day. Just as they can during basketball games, and band concerts, and spring musicals and elementary school carnivals. Like they can anywhere kids congregate outside school walls, like movie theaters or shopping centers or skate parks or the city pool. Forget the armored cars. Maybe kids need individual suits of armor. Or maybe we need a little perspective.
There's never been an Election Day incident that ever put children at risk. Not here in The Corridor, not in Iowa. Not, as far as I can tell, in the country. Not in decades of voting at school.
Of course, we want students to be safe. That's why school polling places already take precautions where they can, like using clearly-marked, designated entrances and exits, and locations, like gymnasiums, that don't require voters to tramp through the entire school.
These aren't new or costly upgrades, or the result of some expensive consultant's study. They're common sense. And that's what we could use a little more of in conversations about how to keep our children safe.
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