Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All this irrational fear turns out to be expensive

Where to begin with these articles? I’ll turn the microphone over to one of my readers, who emailed me this morning:
Do we sound less threatening if we substitute “parents and other neighbors” for “strangers” in this sentence? “The tradition of Iowans casting ballots in local schools on Election Day is disappearing as concerns mount over strangers entering schools while students are present.”

How did we end up with so many people accepting that members of the community exercising the right to vote = a safety and security threat for school children? Parents, you can walk your kids to the front door of the school, but if we let you in to vote (or drop off coats!) you’d become a threat to everyone in the building? They question letting voters in when they are otherwise in constant lockdown instead of questioning the need to lockdown the schools every other day of the year. No wonder we’re having so much trouble with “the bubble”—they are starting with the proposition is that we (members of the community) are the enemy.

Clearly we need to tear down a few more schools so we can afford to build new polling places to protect the children.

Full disclosure: One of those creepy strangers in the picture (filling out a check-in form against the wall) is me.


Lenore Skenazy said...

Better we should have no democracy than an adult in the same building as an innocent child! Will no one think of the children?? - Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids

iclocal said...

Personally I don't like election day being on a school day. There is no where for pollers to park which is a hassle for voters. I also don't like as a parent, I have to sign into the school to visit, but if I am voting I can freely walk in? There is also always an inservice day around election day, it would make more sense for schools to schedule that day on election day. It would be safer and easier for the students and voters. I don't understand why it would be good to hold it during a school day. Please give me some reasons how it is a positive.

Chris said...

Lenore and iclocal -- Thanks for the comments!

There are some great arguments for moving election day to a Saturday instead of a week day, but fear of "strangers" in the buildings isn't one of them. How do these kids survive when they are not within the walls of these locked-down schools? For instance, when they are walking to school, or when they are downtown, or at the public library, or the mall, or the park, or the public pools -- all in close proximity to "strangers"?

For what it's worth, I've always liked that the kids get to see people coming into the buildings to vote on Election Day. Of course, now that voting by mail is so easy, maybe the whole issue is becoming moot.

Karen W said...

Todd Dorman's column earlier this week touches on a similar theme. Writing about the decision not to add metal detectors to the Cedar Rapids City Hall, Dorman notes that "multiple City Hall doors will remain open to the citizens who pay the freight." He goes on to talk about the metal detectors installed at the Iowa Statehouse:

"But the messages those metal detectors sent were a lot more troubling. Every person visiting the people’s house is now a threat until proven otherwise."


I generally vote on election day and take my kids with me. It is a good opportunity to talk about voting and whatever races/bonds are on the ballot. So, I also like that kids can see people showing up to vote.

Anonymous said...

You can still take your kids to vote even it is held on a inservice day, or do the mail in and show them the ballot. I involved my child with the mail in ballot for the last election. I can't believe you guys don't experience parking problems. I know some poll workers who also have had problems with parking.

Karen W said...

Yes. Obviously those of us who actually turn out to vote in any given election can choose to involve our children whether we vote on election day, at alternative early voting sites, or by mail.

But that doesn’t change the larger point that there is nothing creepy or threatening about neighborhood residents showing up to exercise the right to vote such that school children ought to be shielded or protected from them or that public schools—as public institutions—should no longer serve the public purpose of providing stable polling sites at no additional cost to the public.

Do voters pose security threats to public libraries, city halls, county courthouses, or auditors offices such that we shouldn’t be allowed to cast ballots in those locations either?

The real issue to be debated here is not whether voters are a security threat to school children (they aren’t) but whether public schools in Iowa should be in constant lockdown on a daily basis rather than having the capability to lockdown in response to specific threats.

Anonymous said...

Karen, If a voter or volunteer isn't able to get to the polling place because the lot is full due to school staff, what good is it to be a polling place? The point of voting is to be able to participate. Washington and Oregon have gone to all mail in voting and have increased voter turnout in doing so. All a student is getting to see at school is some adults walking into a building. I can't even believe this a topic for debate. Yes, schools are in constant lockdown,(not that I agree with that, but it is the reality) so why would they let adults with no ties to the school in? Is it a hassle for the school to a polling place during a school day? Yes. Would voter turnout increase if the state turned to mail in voting or had polling places with easier parking access? Yes. I don't understand why physically being in the school makes the voting experience better for some of you.