The Richmond Register

February 28, 2014

State legislation could open schools on Election Day

By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Proposed legislation in Frankfort could hurt turnout when voters go to the polls for the May 20 primary, according to Madison County County Clerk Kenny Barger.

Three bills, two in the House and one in the Senate, would grant school districts emergency authority to remain open on Election Day to make up for one of the many days school has been canceled, Barger said.

Of the 17 polling locations (in Madison County), 11 are schools,” he continued. “There’s no way we can move voters in and out like we need to, have kids in the school and have the transportation for the kids in and out.”

Barger said the decision would “cripple the county.”

While several superintendents in support of the legislation have made promises to ease the flow of foot traffic in the schools, he said, they “are not being realistic.”

Imagine trying to get into Kit Carson to vote when the kids are trying to get out,” he said. “It’s impossible.”

Fortunately for Barger, Madison County Schools Superintendent Elmer Thomas said he agrees, adding that “cripple” is the appropriate word.

We would not pursue that option even if it is passed,” Thomas said. “It would not be prudent to have school that day.”

Thomas said the school board has a good relationship with the clerk’s office and understands the schools will be needed May 20. The plans for the primary election will remain the same as they have in the past, he continued.

Barger said his office is preparing for a larger turnout than usual for the primary because there are more candidates than usual.

According to the clerk’s records, about 17,000 people voted in the 2010 primary, and a little more than 9,000 in the 2012 primary. This year, more than 20,000 voters are expected to participate, Barger said.

The election also will happen at the end of a school year repeatedly interrupted by severe winter weather, causing 12 snow days in Madison County.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.