COLUMBUS -- Schools that serve as polling places would have to close affected buildings to students on election days, under legislation being considered by the Ohio Senate.
Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) said he introduced the legislation after hearing concerns from constituents about the potential security risks that come with allowing wider public access to school buildings during class days.
" We go to great effort 99 percent of the time to keep strangers out of our school buildings," LaRose said, recounting concerns voiced by a group of mothers who contacted him. "We put locks on the doors and cameras and you have to get buzzed in and show ID, all of this, and that's an unfortunate reality of the world we live in today where we have to keep our most precious and vulnerable Ohioans safe when they come to school For a couple of days a year, we invite the general public to come in."
He added, "The best scenario is that we just simply don't let students in the building on the days that elections are held."
Under SB 149, school districts would have to close buildings that are used as Election Day polling places to students, with requirements that elections boards notify school officials by the beginning of each year of election dates.
Buildings could be used for teacher in-service training sessions, however.
Districts already can cancel classes on election days, but they aren't required to do so, according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
LaRose noted that there haven't been security issues or violent incidents at schools serving as polling places.
"This is a common sense bill that will address both our imperative to have easily accessible voting locations in all of our communities while at the same time answering the concerns of many of the parents.," he said.
Sen. Edna Brown (D-Toledo) asked whether the sponsor was open to amending the bill to enable school buildings with separate entrances to serve as polling places without cancelling classes. LaRose said he was considering amendments to address such scenarios, including schools with separate buildings that house election activities.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.