Rigged elections. Vigilante observers. Angry voters. The claims, threats and passions surrounding the presidential race have led communities around the U.S. to move polling places out of schools or cancel classes on Election Day.
The fear is that the ugly rhetoric of the campaign could escalate into confrontations and even violence in school hallways, endangering students.
“If anybody can sit there and say they don’t think this is a contentious election, then they aren’t paying much attention,” said Ed Tolan, police chief in this seaside community, which decided to call off classes on Election Day and put additional officers on duty Nov. 8.
School officials already are on edge because of the shootings and threats that have become all too common. They point to the recent firebombing of a Republican Party office in one North Carolina county and the shooting-up of another with a BB gun as the type of trouble they fear on Election Day.
Some of those anxieties have been stoked by Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and his appeal to his supporters to stand guard against fraud at the polls. Some are worried about clashes between the self-appointed observers and voters.
Parent Alpay Balkir said he is glad children will be home. His 8-year-old son is a student in Falmouth, where the high school doubles as a polling place.
“If it’s going to be as chaotic as they say it’s going to be, it’s a good thing. Kids should stay out of it,” Balkir said. “I don’t know what the environment is going to be like.”
Schools are popular polling places because they have plenty of parking and are usually centrally located. It’s difficult to say how many school-based polling places have been moved this year, given how decentralized the voting process is across the country.
But state and local officials say voting has been removed or classes canceled on Election Day at schools in Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere.