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Our View: Voting in schools not a problem

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

When it comes to voting in Illinois, where the electorate casts its ballots is the least of our worries.

Educating voters and getting them to the polls are the real issues.

But doing away with voting in schools? That’s a solution waiting for a problem.

State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, are sponsoring a plan that would eliminate using schools as polling places.

Franks, Bivins and others said safety is the driving force behind the plan.

“I just know in my heart of hearts, that if we continue to allow this, someday we are going to have a version of Sandy Hook,” Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said, referencing the December shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

While looking out for our children and making schools safer is a worthy cause, the reality is that anybody determined to carry out a violent act at an Illinois school is likely to be motivated enough to do so regardless of whether a school is a polling place or not.

While such a plan might not present a problem in some counties – Whiteside and Lee counties, for example, already have no schools serving as polling places – eliminating schools from the list of places where people can vote would be a big issue in McHenry County.

“If we don’t have schools, we won’t have polling places,” McHenry County Clerk Kathie Schultz said. “We’re already using fire stations and police stations, but many don’t have the room to host a polling place.”

Schultz estimated in an Illinois Watchdog story that “about a quarter” of McHenry County’s 212 polling places are inside schools. She also pointed out that if polling places are moved out of schools to other public buildings where parking is an issue, then the federal government could get involved.

“I’m sure if we had issues with long wait times or access, then the feds would act,” Schultz said.

Making schools safer should be an ongoing conversation, but we don’t support a plan that’s unlikely to deter violence and would have such a drastic effect on voting in McHenry County.

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