Ellington Superintendent of Schools Stephen Cullinan recently came before the Board of Selectmen at a recent meeting and asked them to think about moving voting out of Ellington High School and Crystal Lake School.
According to Cullinan, his request is based upon safety, which seems particularly timely in light of the tragedy in Newtown.
Cullinan told the board that all of the Ellington schools have buzzer systems - and have for a while - and that when the voting is taking place, the doors are unlocked and the buzzer system is not in place. He also said that while a constable might be on site, he can only be in one place at a time.
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Cullinan also noted that the security of the polling place must be maintained.
Traffic flow, parking, campaign volunteers, media, and candidates were also things to consider. Early voters arrive at same time buses are loading and unloading and parents picking up and dropping off compete with voters.
“Voters of all ages and various driving abilities will be seeking limited parking while negotiating the flow of students and buses,” Cullinan said.
Cullinan noted that there have never been any issues, but there is always the possibility.
According to Cullinan, the school calendar was adjusted and that the schools run a professional development day the day of the election in November. However, that doesn’t cover all the other times the schools are used.
“I can control one day, but I can’t keep kids out of school every time there happens to be an election,” Cullinan said.
Should another storm like the October Snowstorm or Hurricane Sandy happen near an election, there could also be the issues of power loss and the use of Ellington High School as a shelter
Cullinan told the board that where he lives, they only vote in a school for the presidential election. In his opinion, a setup like that would even be better
“If it’s once every four years instead of a few times each year, that would even be a help,” he said.
Cullinan said that he doesn’t know the answer to this question, but that it is his responsibility to bring it up.
“I know the solution is not easy,” he said. “Our request is that you take a look and see if there are other things that can be done.”
First Selectman Maurice Blanchette brought up the point that this problem will only get worse – as the town grows and the number of voters increases
Selectman Leo Miller agreed that something may need to be done.
“I think this deserves some serious consideration and planning on our part,” he said.