The members of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education are asking the New Jersey Legislature to amend state law and to prohibit the designation of public schools as voting locations without the written consent of the superintendent of schools.
A resolution containing the board’s request to the 80 members of the state Assembly and the 40 members of the state Senate was passed during the panel’s Aug. 23 meeting.
Writing in the resolution, the board members said “the safety and security of students and staff of the (district) is of pre-eminent importance to the (board).” They noted state law “provides … that, when selecting polling locations, ‘preference in locations shall be given to schools …’ ”
The board members wrote that according to state law, “in no case shall the authorities in charge of a public school or other public building deny the request of the county board for the use, as a polling place, of any building they own or lease.”
The board members said “designating public schools as polling locations potentially risks the safety and security of students and staff because access to public schools cannot be restricted in accordance with normal protocols” and that “designating public schools as polling locations also creates a financial burden by requiring increased security measures to protect students and staff.”
Closing schools on election days “due to safety and security concerns presents an unnecessary burden for families and students” and the board members said they believe the existing state law regarding schools’ use as polling places “does not reflect modern safety and security concerns regarding public schools.”
The board is asking the members of the Legislature to change state law as soon as possible “so public schools can avoid designation as polling locations in future elections.”
Business Administrator Veronica Wolf said the board has established an ad hoc committee regarding the issue. The committee is made up of board members David Ferber, David Kane, Christine Parisi and Ryan Urgo.
“(Board President) Brian Graime has been in contact with the Monmouth County Board of Elections and is awaiting word on when they will meet in person with us and the Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education, which has the same issue and desire to end polling in the schools,” Wolf said.
In an interview, Graime said, “the Township Committee in Manalapan has been very forthcoming and helpful in our efforts to change the polling locations in 2023 and beyond. We as a board appreciate that support.”
Graime said two schools in the district are used as polling places: the Lafayette Mills School and the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School. The school district is scheduled to be open on Election Day, Nov. 8.
“We are working with the Manalapan and Englishtown police departments to keep everybody safe,” the board president said.