I live two blocks from my children's elementary school in Greendale. On election day I walk to pick up my two children from school and cast my ballot - all at the same location. It's convenient as can be...but also disturbing.
Nobody asks me any questions as I walk right in the wide open door. An older gentleman wearing American flag stickers on his tweed sport jacket greets me and points me toward the cafeteria where I stand in line for all of two minutes and cast my ballot. Then I grab a couple "I voted" stickers for my kids, snatch them from them classroom and walk right past a 19 year old auxiliary police officer who is still battling acne and is sitting on a chair in the hallway. He never once makes eye contact and looks annoyed that he has to even be there. I go outside to find somone has parked their car ON the playground and is virtually blocking the four year old kindergarten exit. Apparently Highland View was out of handicap parking spots. No one has asked her to move.
The bell has rang and hundreds of children, all under the age of 10 are leaving school in a fury of energy and mayhem. The handicapped woman is now trying to back her over-sized Buick out of the parking lot, navigating between two parked school buses and a parade of children.
Citizens who have just voted now roam the hallways taking unannounced, self-guided tours of the school to see what improvements have been made over the years. Little kids stare up at the strange faces passing them in the hallway.
Casting my ballot at my children's school is easy and a luxury...one I would give up in a heartbeat to ensure the safety of my kids.
The world has changed since 1938 when Greendale was founded, and America has forever changed since Sandy Hook. Allowing an open door policy on election day, but having tight security every other school day makes no sense what-so-ever. It is time to find alternative locations for voting and remove that burden and potential danger from our schools, even if it means reducing polling stations. Despite record turnout at recent elections I have NEVER waited more than six minutes to vote and if I have to double my wait time to twelve minutes, then so be it.
Greendale has 2,865 residents per polling station while our neighbors in Franklin have 7,216, Hales Corners has 7,746 and Oak Creek accomodates 5,818...and we never hear complaints about wait time on election day in those municipalites. There is NO reason why a twelve minute wait time in Greendale to cast a ballot should make the news.
The principals, teacher and parents have been asking for this change for years, and now the school board sees the urgency. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook the safety concerns at our schools have been taken to a whole new unimaginable level. The Greendale School District has asked the Village of Greendale to find alternative polling stations before the fall election. The trustees have show very little interest in doing so thus far citing concerns over thwarting tradition and possible voter disenfranchisement.
The sacred tradition of voting on election day has nothing to do with the brick and mortar building where you cast ballot, but rather the tradition is the ACT of voting on election day, whether that be in a school, church, library, police station or VFW Post. That tradition will NOT change if citizens have to vote three blocks down. We also should take into consideration the ever-growing number of residents who vote early or absentee and will NOT be effected by any such change in location.
Greendale is small. I have 85 year old neighbors who virtually walk through most of our quaint village on a daily basis, so I assume driving to a different building three blocks down the road will not be such an impairment to the most sacred of traditions.
Other nearby municipalities understand that traditions evolve over time - Muskego is moving elections out of schools. Oak creek is finding alternative polling stations after their city clerk stated, "In a post-Sandy Hook world, schools might not be the best place for such a large number of people to stream in and out." Our neighbor, Franklin has never held elections in schools.
Changing a tradition is not easy and sometimes doing what is right is not always popular. It was tradition for more than 125 years to not allow women to vote in this country. It was tradition to not allow African Americans to vote for almost the first 200 years of our existence as a nation. Changing both of those disturbing "traditions" was unpopular at the time, but now we look back and wonder why it took so long.
I for one think we should start a new tradition in Greendale - a tradition of putting safety and common sense ahead of convenience. A tradition of putting partisan politics aside and acting together as a community for betterment of the whole. A tradition of doing what is right.
Confucius once said, "Faced with what is right and to leave it undone shows a lack of courage."
I truly hope the Village of Greendale shows courage and does what is right - move elections out of our schools.