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Measure would allow Illinois schools ability to deny polling places

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(The Center Square) – Usually when someone visits a school district, they have to buzz in and show their ID, but currently state law allows an exception to this safety measure if the person is voting in a primary or a consolidated election. A state lawmaker is looking to change that.

State Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, introduced House Bill 4709 that would amend the current state statute that says if a county board chooses a school to be a polling place, then the school district must make the school available for use as a polling place.

“At my son’s elementary school, I have to buzz through two doors and show an ID just to talk to the secretary. There’s a disconnect between that safety measure and the safety measures we have in place for polling,” said Hirschauer.

Right now, the law says the school is encouraged to close school for Election Day, which is in November. The law makes no mention of closing schools for primaries or consolidated elections.

“The November election, which arguably we will see the most foot traffic through a polling place, is a school holiday, but our primary elections and our consolidated elections there is no holiday in effect so that’s what we are looking at,” Hirschauer told The Center Square.

Under her introduced bill, Hirschauer said the school board would have a say in whether the district becomes a polling place.

“We will explore all options to make sure we have enough successful places in all sorts of different diverse parts of the state,” Hirschauer said.

She said they are still having conversations with county clerks and county boards across the state and she doesn’t want to put up barriers to voting access.

“We see our schools across the state invest more and more dollars into more secure entrances and exits to comply with safety standards, so when we are opening up the schools to the general public on voting days, on election days, it becomes counterintuitive. It’s hard to manage the people coming in and out of the school,” said Hirschauer.

Lakeview Junior High School is currently used as a polling place in Downers Grove and Superintendent Andrew Wise said when there are distractions where the entire community is let in while school is in session, it raises anxiety.

“It raises anxiety in our students, in our faculty and staff because there are people in the building that have not been granted permission to be inside for the day for a specific purpose,” said Wise.

Wise said the county does not provide funding for the school to operate the polling place.

“We had to hire police services and that came out of our budget,” said Wise. “We had to hire a deputy from the county to come out and be stationed here during the election.”

Wise said the school board doesn’t have a say and that Center Cass School District 66 just wants a say.