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home : news : local   May 29, 2016

8/9/2014 6:01:00 AM
No skipping class on Election Day

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

Bad news, kids: Dimmick School isn’t canceling classes on Election Day.

Dimmick children can be forgiven for thinking they may have scored an extra day off last month when Gov. Pat Quinn signed Public Act 98-0773 into law. Mindful of the growing concerns with school security, the new law encourages school districts to cancel classes (or hold a teacher institute day) on Election Day when a school building doubles as a polling place.

But the key word is “encourage” — this is not a mandate — and superintendent Ryan Linnig said he and his board thought it over and decided not to tinker with the school calendar.

“Really, out in our community there aren’t any other options for voters,” Linnig explained.
“We do have the ability to segregate a region in the building away from where the students will be,” he said. “It wouldn’t be an issue where there’d be free access to where the kids would be on Election Day.”

And therein lies the rub for county clerks: Though they’d like to segregate schools from polling places altogether, there still are precincts where a school provides the only viable place to vote.

La Salle County has trimmed the number of schools-as-polling places and is down to three. Not least among the concerns is how to protect the right of a registered sex offender to vote while ensuring the safety of children in class.

County clerk JoAnn Carretto would like to make that number zero, but at some of the county’s rural precincts there simply are no other centrally-located buildings that are handicapped-accessible.

Bureau County has just one school that doubles as a polling place. The Hall High School gym lobby is the polling place for Hall precinct 3, an area that can easily be segregated from the classrooms on Election Day.

There are no such concerns in Putnam or Marshall counties, as neither uses schools on Election Day.

“As far as I know there’s never been a school utilized as a polling place in Putnam County,” said county clerk Dan Kuhn. “It’s always been fire stations, pool complexes, legion halls but no schools.”

“We use a lot of churches and township buildings, so we haven’t had a need to use a school as yet,” said Marshall County clerk Melody Weber. “It works out really well for us.”

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or Follow him on Twitter: @NT_Court.

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