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OPINION: Voting Should Remain in the Heart of Greendale

OPINION: Voting Should Remain in the Heart of Greendale

Once or twice a year, some of Greendale schools double as polling places and allows the public to enter freely to cast ballots.

The Greendale Schools has requested that voting be eliminated in the district’s three elementary schools this year. If approved by the Village, polling places would be removed in Canterbury, Highland View and College Park schools. Voting would continue at Greendale High School.

Any proposal making it more difficult to vote requires a good deal of skepticism.

Will the move make some in the Village believe the schools are now safer? A resounding yes. In reality, will the move actually make students safer? Maybe. For 75 years, Greendale elections have been largely efficient, convenient and completely violence free.

I do think that in this era of school shootings, it is legitimate to ask whether voting in schools is wise. However, the answer may not be as simple as it might appear on the surface.

It is an issue that has made it as far as the White House.

In January of 2014, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration examined the issue of voting in schools and recommended, “Schools should be used as polling places; to address any related security concerns, Election Day should be an in-service day.”

The report goes on to say, “With almost no exception, the testimony received from state and local election administrators identified schools as the preferred venue for polling places.”

Indeed, Greendale’s Village Clerk has publicly and clearly stated her strong concerns about moving voting from the schools.

If Greendale district officials do not want to mix polling with school days, they have the option of scheduling a professional development or nonattendance days. Like other suburban districts, Greendale routinely builds such dates into their calendar.

However, the Greendale school board in a letter to the Greendale Village board clearly stated that option was “not realistic.”

Is it realistic to think that if the Greendale Schools is concerned about student safety, they would also ask the Village to eliminate voting at Greendale High School? It is an odd decision — that on the surface — appears to value the lives of high school aged children less than that of elementary school kids.

Some ideas floated by supporters of the move have said that voting should move to local churches. Some of those buildings are already home to private schools attended by Village elementary aged children.

Today, Greendale’s elementary schools invite the public to attend concerts, plays, open houses and fairs that, whether on school time or after hours, leaves the Village’s children at least as vulnerable as they are on Election Day.

I know that residents have heard more than once from district administration about the “changing demographics” in Greendale. Despite the demographic shift, senior citizens remain one demographic that can be counted on to vote in our Village.

It is also the single demographic that is likely to be most impacted by any move of voting. The law says that elections must be held in locations that meet specific standards, related to accessibility and parking for the disabled and elderly. The Village has previously said that the removal of voting from schools could disenfranchise voters.

Greendale already has been in the news over accessibility issues at Southridge Mall. After nearly a year of protests, Southridge Mall officials said in May that they will consider moving a controversial bus stop at the mall that drew the ire of metro-Milwaukee accessibility advocates.

It is an issue our Village leaders and most residents haven’t wanted to touch with a ten foot pole. Greendalers will remember that the renovations at Southridge were partially financed with resident tax dollars using a TIF district.

If the trustees agree to move voting from the elementary schools, there will be other unintended consequences. It makes me wonder if some Village leaders have thought this thing through.

Surely the district knows that voters are more likely to support a school funding proposal if they are casting a ballot in a school. As a district that has become increasingly inward looking in recent years, they couldn’t have missed that this move clearly engages and divides residents beyond the district’s core stakeholders.

The trustees must understand that their vote — either way — will likely have consequences in the Spring elections of 2015. I would wager that at least some trustees are not exactly thrilled to have this issue thrown on their doorstep.

In the end, I believe that the rights of children to safety and of electors to a simple voting process can and must coexist. I agree with those who say that the heart of our community should also be home to an act that is at the heart of our democracy.

There must be a common sense solution that resolves the concerns on both sides. We should urge our trustees and Village leaders to find it. Try harder. That is the Greendale way.

About The Author

Bill Attewell

Bill Attewell is the editor and publisher of Everything Greendale. He has over 20 years experience as an award-winning newspaper editor, writer and publisher. His work has been read in in over 50 publications across the U.S. and abroad. Bill is a long-time resident of Greendale and a Greendale High School alum. Go Panthers!


  1. Ronnie

    Because school violence keeps getting in the news, we get the impression that Greendale is surrounded by countless perverts, pedophiles and murderers. This is the consequence. Pedophile terrorist strangers never existed before but now do apparently.

  2. Bob

    Last night I read the Village Views newsletter from cover to cover. Not a SINGLE word from the Village or the schools about moving voting. Then, I checked their websites. Not a single word. They have known they were considering this for well over than a month. I expect the final vote will take place in a darkened room in the middle of the night.

    • One of them

      Stand by Bob –

  3. Jed

    This decision is being made by Greendale Trustees. Remember ex Trustee Turay. Sent on his way humilated while he pretends he was happy with losing. We voted him out of a job.

  4. Jed

    It was supported this afternoon Trustees and School Boarders are talking and voting sites are going to move out of all our schools. Do not agree but will submit. Will also vote against everone of them that vote or want this.

  5. Jed

    Rumor on Broad Street. The Greendale Trustees are going to vote yes on the school argument to move it from the schools inc the high school.

  6. Greendale Parent

    In order to chaperone a field trip or volunteer in the classroom for one of your children at the elementary school level you must submit information (DOB, SSN, etc.) for a background check, enter the school through the office (after being buzzed in), sign in and wear a visitor badge while you are in the building. Yet, a few times a year, the school is expected to open its doors and allow anyone to enter. I am unaware of any Greendale schools with an ideal set up to accommodate voting (ample parking, separate entrance to voting area, etc.), so I hardly think relocating polling locations could be considered a hardship.

    While it is true that “nothing has ever happened” in Greendale, that is hardly reason to pretend that it is an impossibility. I’ve never been in a serious car accident, yet I still wear a seatbelt everyday. You don’t need to have experienced a tragedy in order to take precautions to avoid one. It seems to me that there are plenty of other locations (Community Learning Center, Greendale Safety Center, etc.) to accommodate voting in the Village. Continuing to vote in the schools “because we always have” is hardly a compelling reason to continue doing so – there are many “traditions” that evolve over time.

    • sandra

      This Greendale parent doesn’t know that voting has been held at the safety center since it was built? How long has this parent lived among us.

  7. Marie

    The premise of this article seems to be hysteria vs. common sense. I’ll take common sense. Keep the voting as it is and increase security if it makes parents feel safer. This whole thing is dumb, dumb, dumb.

  8. Lady from Greedale

    So we’d vote somewhere else. Not that big of a deal. Just accept the change and move on.

  9. Go Franklin!

    Schools to Greendale: Give us your tax money. But, stay the hell out of our buildings. You can’t be trusted.

    • Greendale Dad

      Fire depatprtment to Greendale: give us your money but stay out of our trucks!

      Seriously though, the school buildings are open and available for community use more time than they have students in them. Park and rec, girl and boy scouts, community clubs and groups, etc. all use the schools from 3:30 until 9:00 M-F during school days, and all day on weekends and the summertime. That’s hardly telling the community to “get out” don’t you think?

  10. College Park Mom

    “Why is change necessary after decades??” Because “the only thing that is constant is change.” The schools don’t have typewriter classes anymore, they teach “new” math, and they allow girls to play sports nowadays. Homes have one or more cellular phones and/or computers. Most have alarms on cars to protect them. We have changed more than once over the decades. If our right to vote isn’t being taken away and we have the option to potentially make our schools safer why wouldn’t we change?

  11. WI Mother

    Population wise, can’t compare Franklin w/Greendale. Many aspects must be considered re voting sites.

    • Greendale Dad

      I’m with you! Franklin had to find voting places outside of schools for more than twice as many people as Greendale has! They did it though. So good work for them; I’d like to think we can hold ourselves up to their standard, if not exceed it!

  12. Greendale Dad

    “Why change? Nothing has happened yet!” Seems to be spurious. I mean, factually, nothing has every happened anywhere…until it did. Columbine never had a mass murder in its halls…until it did. Newtown never had a killer stalk its halls, shooting 5 and 6 year-olds either…until it did. The world is changing.

    The article also points out that no matter where elections would be moved, federal law requires that accessibility and access meet very demanding standards. The village clerk can show you the many-many-many page form she’s required to complete just to consider an alternate site. So questions of accessibility are a moot point too. In fact, since our schools were grandfathered in and predate the requirements, any alternate place would by force be MORE accessible to older or disabled voters, so that argument flies by the wayside too.

    And while the article writer points out that some churches have schools attached, most do not, and obviously no one is considering those churches with schools attached. So that’s kind of a disingenuous statement.

    Finally, keep in mind that Greendale would hardly be blazing a new trail in this. Franklin and Hales Corners already vote exclusively in non-school locations. (And boy oh boy does it hurt for this guy who bleeds green, black, and white to admit that Franklin’s ahead of us something!)

  13. WI Mother

    Why is a change necessary after decades?? (and no problems thus far)

  14. Lance

    At this rate there will be gun towers, razor wire and full body cavity searches in Greendale schools by 2015.

  15. Joe

    This is why Everything Greendale is our source for Greendale news. This opinion article is perfect.

  16. Jed

    Both sides arguing pro and con are right. Greendale Village Trustees can settle this and come up with a better Greendale way to fix this mess. Smarter officials than the school ones can fix this.

  17. carole

    Voting has always been in the schools. Why does there need to be a change after all these years???

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