Polling place moved amid security concerns
MASTIC BEACH—William Floyd Elementary School will no longer serve as a polling place during elections, district officials announced last week.
Board of education president Robert Vecchio said that board officials have long agreed that the high school serves as a better polling site, as it currently hosts the annual school budget and board of education elections. “[The high school] allows us to better manage the logistics of hosting a vote while at the same time having minimal impact on our educational day,” Vecchio said.
District officials say that the influx of voters can now be better supervised, as the high school employs a larger security force in general, and a separate parking lot and entrance can be used for voters.
Parents welcome the change. Anna Gottfried-Roventini, a parent of two who votes at the K-5 school, supports the move. While voting in past elections, she said, student safety concerns always crossed her mind. “When you drop off your child’s lunch or instrument, you are not allowed to just enter the building. Why on earth is it OK to let perfect strangers — people who may not even have children in the school — enter?” she said.
Ideally, Gottfried-Roventini would rather cast her vote at another municipal building. “I don’t believe polling places should be in any school,” she said. “But the high school is a better choice. They have security, they have wand metal detectors, which I hope they use. And the kids are older. They know what to do in an emergency situation.”
According to Jeanne O’Rourke, deputy commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, the elementary school had served two election districts. The change would affect 2,532 registered voters in the area, she said.
Nationwide, some schools are looking to retreat from serving as polling places as security concerns mount. But, as facilities that receive state and federal funding, schools are, in most cases, required to act as polling locations.
School district officials worked with Legis. Rudy Sunderman’s office and the Board of Elections to move the polling place. Timothy Rothang, who serves as Sunderman’s chief of staff, said it is a win-win for parents and has a minimal effect on voters. “There were some concerns with the school district and parents, especially with everything going on surrounding school safety,” Rothang said. “[At the high school] they can section off where voters come in, and there’s no interaction with students. It’s a more secure location,” he said.
The high school is located approximately one mile from the elementary school.
O’Rourke declined to say if any other districts have expressed similar concerns. “We make an effort to accommodate requests where it’s feasible,” she said, adding that her team found the high school would work well and wouldn’t inconvenience voters.
The board of elections is now working to notify affected voters ahead of the upcoming federal primary election in June. O’Rourke said voters in the affected districts would be mailed postcards and signs would be posted on Election Day directing voters to their new polling place.
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