By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter
GREENDALE, Wis. — A group pushing for polling places to be taken out of schools in Greendale doesn’t want the issue going to a referendum in November over fears it may not pass.
Some parents and educators who spoke at a Greendale Village Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month said the referendum should not be placed on the ballot because taxpaying citizens who do not have children may tip the scales.
“I think there is going to be too many non-stakeholders that would vote during that referendum,” said Jason Patzfahl, who signed the recall petition for Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. “Some stakes are higher than others. I think having two of my kids in the elementary schools makes me a little bit more of a higher stakeholder.”
But Estelle H. Rogers, legislative director of the nonpartisan Project Vote, doesn’t quite see it that way.
Rogers said pulling the referendum would stifle the voices of taxpaying residents who have a right to speak on matters in their communities.
“Why not exclude such voters from elections for school board? In the ‘ancient history’ of this country, only white, male property owners were entitled to vote,” Rogers told Wisconsin Reporter. “Do we want to go back to that? Voters in a community are appropriate voters on issues affecting that community. Where they vote is one such issue.”
The Greendale Village Board of Trustees is expected to make a decision on the referendum at its meeting Tuesday night.
Proponents of removing polling place from schools say it will help keel children safe and cause less disruption in the classroom. Some also have brought up concerns that opening up the buildings to anyone could make it easier for mass shootings, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
“I think it’s just common sense,” Greendale resident Tom Combs said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
But Newtown hasn’t eliminated any of its polling places in schools since the shooting because city officials didn’t believe it was a priority, according to Registrar of Voters Karin Aurelia.
The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration released a report earlier this year recommending polling places be located in schools because “they have the needed and desirable space, are inexpensive, widespread, conveniently located, and accessible for people with disabilities.”
“In the end, there is no better alternative than schools, and there are few locations more familiar and convenient to voters,” the report says.
Greendale Clerk-Treasurer Kathryn Kasza told Wisconsin Reporter that switching polling places could result in added costs, longer lines and voter disenfranchisement.
“Any time you change anything it causes some confusion,” Kasza said.
The city is looking for public buildings to accommodate the proposed change, but Kasza said that list is small. Taxpayers could have to spend additional money to ensure the new voting facilities are handicapped accessible, Kasza said.
“To do that again, to make sure that the buildings are up to the requirements for voting, may cost us more money,” she said.
The city also would have to pay extra to inform citizens about the polling changes, Kasza said.