SAANYS Supports Flexibility for Public Schools as Polling Places

An Act to amend the election and education law in relation to providing public school districts the authority to decline or change a school building’s designation as a polling place.

A.4743/S.5287 would amend election and education law, to provide public school districts with the authority to accept or decline their designation as a polling place. Current election law states that “a building exempt from taxation shall be used whenever possible as a polling place… as public convenience may require.” Currently, if a public school building is designated as a polling place, the agency that controls such building must make room(s) available for registration and voting. The proposed bill would allow school districts to decline their designation as a polling place. The proposed bill would also allow common and small city school districts to hold district elections at accessible sites, other than a school building within the district.

The School Administrators Association of New York State supports A.4743/S.5287. Over the past few years it has become increasingly more difficult and complex to meet the obligations of being a polling site. The most critical consideration has been assuring student, staff, and community safety. The devastating school shootings and criminal activities surrounding schools have required school districts to be very vigilant on school safety protocols. School safety cannot be compromised due to election requirements. The proposed bill provides districts with the authority to make decisions regarding their capacity to be polling site and decline such designation if needed. Additionally, increased demands on school calendars have made it difficult to meet instructional requirements. With additional testing dates and increased days needed to meet religious observances, districts do not have the flexibility within their calendars to adjust for election days.