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Idaho House committee votes to send students home from school voting sites on Election Day

Courtesy State of Idaho

The bill's sponsor calls it a matter of safety.

An Idaho House committee has voted to require schools that double as polling places to cancel classes for students on Election Day.

Rep. Greg Lanting (R-Twin Falls) says it’s a safety issue. Most schools are no longer open to the public. When they are, on special occasions like Election Day, he says they can draw people who might bring weapons or look to exploit children.

“If we have a polling place at an elementary school, that invites a pedophile to look around and see what’s going on. Bathrooms are usually right there if students are in session," he said.

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane says the legislation strikes a balance between the needs of students and the needs of the democratic process.

“This legislation really is aimed at making sure we have adequate facilities to process voters," he said. "Often, people have busy lives and that’s the number one reason they don’t vote and so we need to provide adequate access to voting if we want people to exercise their right.”

Lanting’s bill would give districts the authority to allow use of their schools for non-student-related activities on Election Day. It suggests students could be scheduled for virtual instruction. The bill also stipulates that schools that aren’t polling places would remain open on Election Day.

The bill was approved by the House Education Committee. It now moves to the full House. If passed into law, it would not take effect until the November 2024 election.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.