Miami County considering going back to schools for voting locations

Board of Elections
Board of Elections

TROY – The Miami County Board of Elections said it will explore again using school buildings for voting with a goal of beginning in 2023, if feasible.

Elections Board Chairman David Fisher said April 27 it’s time to get the ball rolling on the effort to allow plenty of time for discussions and implementing change.

“I would like to send letters to superintendents, school board members and say, ‘Come 2023 we want to use your buildings,’” Fisher told fellow board members.

For years, school buildings were widely used as polling places until concerns were raised over issues such as security threats and registered sex offenders having access to schools during the school day.

Fisher pointed to the Ohio Revised Code’s notation election boards “shall utilize, in so far as practicable, rooms in public schools and other public buildings for polling places. Upon application of the board of elections, the authority which has the control of any building or grounds supported by taxation under the laws of this state, shall make available the necessary space therein for the purpose of holding elections …”

Elections Director Laura Bruns said the schools have legitimate concerns, adding in Mercer County, where she used to work in elections, residents asked that elections not be held in the schools. “We need to get their feedback,” she said of the Miami County districts.

“We are going to give them two years’ notice. I am telling them we need to do it,” Fisher said.

He has been getting complaints from voters about the changes in precincts voting locations, some repeatedly in the past few years. Other complaints include voters having to drive a distance to vote, he said. Schools, particularly in rural areas, often are centrally located in the district, Fisher said.

Board member Jim Oda said schools close for teacher inservice days and other purposes, possibly offering the opportunity to coordinate those days with Election Day.

High school seniors interested in working an election also could be utilized, said board member Audrey Gillespie.

“We need to inquire with the schools to see if they are in favor or not and find out reasons why,” board member Robert Long Jr. said.

Bruns and Ian Ridgeway, deputy elections director, said elections staff has had to find new polling places as some private building owners have decided not to allow use of their buildings for voting. One Troy company’s decision to end voting at its property led staff this year to move five precincts to two locations further away from some voters.

Some school buildings cannot provide the handicapped accessibility needed for a polling place, Bruns added.

Fisher said he’d like election representatives to discuss the possible use of school buildings with superintendents during one of the countywide superintendent meetings.

“We need to start using our school buildings again, like we did a few years ago,” Fisher said. “I think it would be good PR (public relations) for school districts.”

Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper said the school board has not discussed use of school buildings for voting. “We would be open to that discussion once COVID restrictions are lifted,” Piper said.

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