Polling places could stay in Greendale schools — for now

Posted: Aug 21, 2014 11:06 AM
Polling places could stay in Greendale schools — for now

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

AP file photo

CASTING A BALLOT: The Greendale Village Board of Trustees has asked the village’s school board to rescind a letter asking for polling places to be taken out of schools.

GREENDALE, Wis. — The Greendale Village Board of Trustees very much wants to rid itself of a request to remove polling places from schools.

It wants the School Board’s idea, which progressed to a referendum approved in July, to simply disappear. To go poof, like a puff of air.

“If the (School Board’s) letter was completely rescinded … there is nothing to have a referendum about because there is no letter,” Trustee Ronald Barbian said. “Why would you have a referendum?”

The School Board on Thursday night will consider rescinding a pair of documents pertaining to the removal of polling places from schools.

In a May letter, the School Board asked village trustees to support removing all voting machines from schools by November.

But the School Board had a change in heart, and Monday approved a different document, which basically says, well, never mind. We really don’t have to relocate polling places before the Nov. 4 election.

But some village administrators and board members aren’t satisfied. They want the School Board to withdraw its correspondence, completely negating the need for a referendum.

School Board president Joe Crapitto, who attended a Village Board meeting Tuesday, said the letter approved Monday was supposed to show village officials the School District is not going to take unilateral action in removing the polling places.

But the document doesn’t specify the school board’s intent after the November election.

That omission doesn’t sit well with Village President John Hermes and Trustee Carl Genz.

“That to me means that, well, we’re clean on this to allow our voters to go to their usual polling places only through November,” Hermes said.

Genz has indicated he will not consider withdrawing the advisory referendum until all of the School Board’s letters are rescinded. Otherwise, he says, “it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when” the school board will look again to eliminate voting machines in schools.

“By God, people have fought and died for this country for the right to vote, and if we’re going to sit here and just hem and haw about where they can place their vote, I think it’s shameful,” Genz said.

Several school officials, including Superintendent John Tharp, had been campaigning for the proposal for months, citing concerns with student safety and classroom disruptions.

In an email Wednesday to Wisconsin Reporter, Crapitto said the School Board has changed its stance on the issue because it realizes the village is facing several obstacles in finding suitable alternative sites for polling.

“By adjusting our expectations, we hope to ease that burden and continue the dialogue in this matter so that together, we can develop a long-term plan that ensures a safe learning environment and meets the accessibility to polling locations’ needs for all Greendale residents,” Crappito, on behalf of the School Board, wrote in the email.

Genz told Wisconsin Reporter a lack of overwhelming public support was a factor.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us, as trustees, to make sure that the voters of Greendale have the best possible place to vote at their disposal,” Genz said. “And right now it happens to be our schools. We’ve got a couple other buildings we’re rehabbing that could eventually work as polling places, but right now we don’t.”

Several parents and educators have asked the village board to eliminate the referendum question and instead approve the removal of voting machines. Some are worried taxpaying voters without children could cause the referendum to fail.

Village Manager Todd Michaels told Wisconsin Reporter he expects the village board to repeal the referendum question by the Tuesday deadline — if, of course, the School Board agrees to rescind its letters.