North Carolina General Statutes specifically delegate authority to local Board of Elections to provide for a suitable structure for voting. Local Board of Elections shall be entitled to demand and use any school or other State, county, or municipal building which is supported or maintained through tax revenues. It is the responsibility of those in control of the building to provide adequate parking.
OVERVIEW Of the 101 county precincts, 36 polling sites are located in WS/FCS public schools. 22 elementary schools In November 2013 municipal elections, approximately 7,000 people cast their votes at our public schools. 32% of all votes cast
OVERVIEW High voter turnout: Glenn High School Sedge Garden Elementary Cash Elementary School Lewisville Elementary School Southwest Elementary School East Forsyth High School Jefferson Middle School Meadowlark Middle School
OVERVIEW Staff Attorneys visited all 36 polling sites Met with school administrators Followed voter routes Identified safety concerns Identified alternative polling sites Not concerned with Presidential Elections (school is closed) Primaries and mid-term elections – Tuesday after first Monday in May and November
OVERVIEW This was a collaborative effort with the local Board of Elections. Our team consisted of: Staff Attorneys Darrell Walker, Asst. Superintendent of Operations Bill Powell, Construction Specialist Patrick Merrill, Security Lamar Joyner, Interim Director of Forsyth County Board of Elections
OVERVIEW Staff Attorneys observations from the school visits are detailed in the confidential school summaries that have been provided to the Board of Education members. The individual school summaries are not being made a part of the public board book because the contain recommendations for inclusions to school improvement plans as well as contain detailed plans and drawings of public school buildings, pursuant to N.C.G.S. §115C- 105.27 and 132-1.7(a).
REPORTING FACTORS Level of Sequestration Security Risks Registered Sex Offenders On-Campus Alternatives Off-Campus Alternatives
REPORTING FACTORS: Sequestration Level of interaction between students and voters Location of polling site in relation to student areas: Classrooms Student restrooms Common areas Concern: Potential for unsupervised direct contact between students and voters
REPORTING FACTORS: Sequestration At most schools, voting occurs in the gymnasium, media center, or auditorium. For some schools, the polling site is located in the heart of the school. For others, the polling site has separate entrance/exit which requires no contact with students. Examples: Not sequestered: Forest Park Elementary School Sequestered: Lewisville Elementary School
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks We have never had an incident reported involving a student and voter on election day. In the summaries, we identify ways to reduce potential liability by offering best practices on election days. Most common security concerns: Traffic/Parking Lot Safety Improving Supervision
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Traffic/Parking Lot Safety At many schools, traffic is problematic on any given day, but especially in high turnout precincts on election day. Not aware of any major incidents in the past
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Traffic/Parking Lot Safety (contd) Concerns: Significant delays Harder to control traffic flow Students walking through parking lot Elections officials walking through parking lot This past November, an elections official was nearly struck by a vehicle at one of the elementary schools.
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Improving Supervision The most common concern among school administrators was the potential for voters to wander the halls and have direct, unsupervised contact with students. We are not aware this has ever happened.
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Improving Supervision (contd) For schools where the voting is not sequestered, voters walk through the hallways past student areas to access the polling site. Many schools do not have additional staff on-hand to escort voters to the polling site and, therefore, voters are left to walk the halls unsupervised.
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Improving Supervision (contd) Concerns: Classrooms – In many of the schools, classrooms, at least on elementary school level, are locked from the outside. Cafeteria – In many cases, voters walk past the cafeteria to access the polling site or, conversely, students walk past the polling site to access the cafeteria.
REPORTING FACTORS: Security Risks Improving Supervision (contd) Concerns: Hallways – Most elementary school children will be supervised in hallways by a teacher, but may be in hallways unsupervised at times (i.e. called to Principals office, using the restroom). Middle and high school students more likely to walk the hallway unsupervised. Bathrooms – In some cases, student restrooms located directly across from polling site. However, restroom provisions are not required for polling sites.
REPORTING FACTORS: Registered Sex Offenders Each school report identifies the number of registered sex offenders within one and three miles of the school. Current as of April 10, 2014
REPORTING FACTORS: Registered Sex Offenders Pursuant to NC General Statutes and AR 1500, registered sex offenders who are registered to vote may be on school property: For the limited purpose of voting and are not allowed outside of the voting enclosure except for entering/exiting the voting place. Must notify the Principal that they are a registered sex offender and are there for the purpose of voting.
REPORTING FACTORS: Registered Sex Offenders Each school Principal is required to subscribe to the NC Sex Offender Registry alert system, which generates an email whenever a registered sex offender moves within one mile of the school. The School Attorneys Office notifies the registered sex offender of their requirements under the law. We are not aware of any incidents involving a student and a registered sex offender on election day.
REPORTING FACTORS: On-campus Alternatives Where possible, potential liability may be reduced by moving the polling site from the current location to another location on the school grounds. Any alternative polling site must meet the State Board of Elections accessibility standards and have adequate facilities to accommodate voters.
REPORTING FACTORS: On-campus Alternatives Accessibility Standards: Must be handicap accessible Must have room to accommodate the number of voters Must have adequate power access Must be in vicinity of parking
REPORTING FACTORS: On-campus Alternatives In addition, our local Board of Elections prefers: That it be located in vicinity of parking and entrance so that voters, especially the elderly and disabled, are not required to walk long distances That curbside voting can be maintained
REPORTING FACTORS: On-campus Alternatives Examples of recommendations: Piney Grove Elementary School – Move from gymnasium to media center Brunson Elementary School – Move from gymnasium to external mobile unit Whitaker Elementary School – Move from stage to media center If there is no other suitable on-campus alternative, the School Attorneys Office will work with school administration to make changes internally to reduce potential liability.
REPORTING FACTORS: Off-campus Alternatives It is unlikely that the Board of Elections will stop using schools as polling sites. Schools are ADA-accessible, tend to be centrally-located in relation to the population they serve, and offer sufficient parking. In some of the individual school summaries, we made suggestions for off-campus alternatives for your consideration. In three instances, we did recommend moving the voting location from one school to another school within the same precinct.
1). Move polling sites from one school to another within the same precinct. 2). Increase the number of volunteers at voting sites on election days. 3). Develop best practices for all voting sites. 4). Implement site-specific changes for voting sites. 5). Develop a plan to reduce/eliminate liability in parking and high traffic areas.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Moving polling sites from one school to another within the same precinct. Cash Elementary School to East Forsyth Middle School Paisley Middle School to Cook Elementary School Mineral Springs Elementary School to Mineral Springs Middle School In none of our summaries did we recommend moving voting from a school to a non-school facility.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Increase the number of volunteers at voting sites on election days. Up to 2 additional volunteers, in addition to the poll workers provided by board of elections. Volunteers should be recruited from parent organizations, school system staff, and members of the community. Volunteers are important to help identify voters as they arrive, direct them to the polling site and designated restrooms, and supervise the area in/around the polling site.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Develop best practices for all voting sites. The School Attorneys Office will assist the administration at all polling sites to develop best practices on election days. Examples: Recruitment of volunteers Re-routing students and/or staggering release times between classes to minimize direct, unsupervised contact between students and voters
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Develop best practices for all voting sites (contd): Examples: Increasing staff rounds in the voting area through the day Adopt a policy that no student walks unsupervised in hallways around voting area on election days Adding signage to direct voter traffic
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Implement site-specific changes for election days. The School Attorneys Office will assist the administration at certain schools to develop a plan to better meet the needs of their individual school. Many of these changes can be made in time for the May primary elections.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Implement site-specific changes for election days (contd). Examples : Move polling to a better location on campus (i.e. gymnasium to media center) If restrooms are in vicinity of polling site, designate staff restrooms to be used for voters and/or post signs discouraging use of student restrooms At some schools, re-route voters on a more direct path to the polling site (i.e. through an outside door to the polling site)
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Develop a plan to reduce/eliminate potential liability in parking/high traffic areas. The School Attorneys Office will assist the administration at all polling sites to develop a plan to improve traffic flow and parking lot safety issues.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS Develop a plan to reduce/eliminate potential liability in parking/high traffic areas. (contd). Examples: Where appropriate, re-route bus drop-off location so that does not interfere with voter traffic Reserve staff/visitor parking spaces for voters Coordinate alternate arrival/dismissal locations and facilitate communication with parents regarding same
We are scheduled to speak at upcoming level meetings to give a forecast of these changes Although we have a general sense that the Board of Elections will not oppose our internal changes, the Board of Elections has not yet voted to adopt the school exchange recommendations. The next Board of Elections meeting is scheduled for April 15, 2014.
QUESTIONS? School Attorneys Office Allison Tomberlin, General Counsel Sam Mills, Staff Attorney Dionne Jenkins, Staff Attorney