Several thousand voters could be moved to new polling places as Franklin County Clerk Debbie Door looks to stop using schools as voting sites in the wake of recent shootings and other safety concerns.
Door said she was already exploring the idea of moving polling places out of schools prior to the Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
In fact, the Beaufort Elementary polling place was moved before that shooting to St. Joseph’s Church in Beaufort.
But the shooting emphasizes the need to keep children in a secure school environment, Door said. When the schools are opened up to the general public during elections, anyone could walk into the buildings, she said.
For the past several years she has stationed armed security guards at schools used as polling places.
She realizes that changing polling places will not be an easy task, since other facilities will have to be lined up. In some rural areas finding an alternate location may not be feasible, which means other solutions may have to be explored. Nine schools are being used.
One idea, Door said, is to look at making election days teacher work days in which children are not in school. She plans to work with school superintendents to develop ideas.
Using schools for polling places can also be dangerous from a traffic standpoint since children could intermingle with voters pulling into parking lots to vote, she said.
If a polling place is relocated, voters will be notified through a personal letter and on their voter registration card, Door said.
Schools used as polling places in Franklin County include The Fulton School at St. Albans, Labadie Elementary, Japan R-16, Spring Bluff R-15, Campbellton, St. John’s Gildehaus, East Central College, Pacific High School and Assumption Catholic School.