Classes to carry on during fall voting
Lee County classrooms will be full when residents cast their ballots this fall — a change from previous elections.
Local schools will be in session during the Sept. 10 municipal primary and the Nov. 5 general election, according to Lee County Board of Elections Director Nancy Kimble and Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan.
“Typically, we’ve tried to have teacher workdays in place on election days, but with some of the changes in the calendar and trying to get in the number of days that we needed, it’s just the way it ended up,” Bryan said. “The September primary was a change [that took place] after the [school] calendar was adopted.”
The Lee County Board of Education adopted the school system calendar prior to passage of a state bill making the Sanford City Council and school board elections partisan, and a primary became necessary when multiple candidates filed within the same political party. The school system is also required to have 185 days in session this year compared to 180 days last year, Bryan said.
The school system will work with Kimble and Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter to ensure the safety of the students on election days, Bryan said.
“We’ve been discussing the issue to make sure — logistically and safety wise — we provide the best care possible,” he said.
Kimble said the local board of elections will work hard to remove any kinks voters may face during the election process.
“With regard to safety, we are hiring an extra person to man the doors to prevent people from going into the student area,” she said.
Lee County Republican Party Chairman Charles Staley said he learned about the change this week and has some concerns.
“It seems like to me if you are going to have people voting, it’s not going to be a very secure atmosphere for the children,” he said.
As a former probation officer, Staley said he’s concerned about possible sex offenders going to their polling places to vote when children will also be present. Staley also said he’s concerned about traffic at the polling sites during school hours.
“On election day, you have a lot of traffic and congestion,” he said. “Lines of people are there to vote, and then when schools let out, we may run into some issues.”
It was his understanding, Staley said, that there was an agreement between the local board of elections and the school system to hold teacher workdays on election days, and he said he wondered why Bryan decided not to honor that arrangement. Bryan said he was unaware of any such agreement.
Local Democratic Chairwoman Ann McCracken said she’d need more clarification about the change before commenting.
Lee County residents used to cast their votes at various other sites, but the local board of elections moved the polling places to the schools to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kimble said.