Big Bucks, Big Issues in Moving Elections from Roxbury Schools

Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline
Roxbury Mayor and Council discusses moving elections out of schools

ROXBURY, NJ – The only potentially feasible way to move Election Day voters out of Roxbury schools would be to use the township building at Horseshoe Lake Park as a massive polling site, a proposition that could cost more than $150,000, might alienate voters and would likely cause a traffic nightmare, said township officials Tuesday.

Speaking at the Roxbury Mayor and Council Meeting, Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline reported on the findings of a township subcommittee that investigated ways to remove voting from schools. Getting voting booths out of schools is something sought, for security purposes, by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic and some parents.

In the last election, Jefferson School, Kennedy School, Nixon School, Eisenhower School and Roxbury High School were used as polling sites. The schools remained open throughout Election Day, allowing the public to enter otherwise restricted buildings while students were present.

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Kline said the study panel “reviewed hundreds of locations” suggested as possible non-school polling sites, including other township buildings, non-profit organizations’ sites and places of worship. He said the committee determined the only “semi-feasible plan” would be to use the township building at 72 Eyland Ave. – Horseshoe Lake Park – which now houses the township Recreation Department, Roxbury Senior Center and other municipal staff.

Doing that would require the purchase and installation of an emergency generator, more electrical outlets for the site’s gymnasium, signage, extra staff, space heaters for voters lined up outside, extra police presence and more, Kline said, estimating the cost to be $150,000 to $200,000.

If done, the project would mean about half of Roxbury’s 17,000 registered voters would be directed to the Eyland Avenue site to vote, according to Kline.

Worth the Cost?

Noting that the township government is fiscally conservative and not willing to raise taxes, Kline said the committee would look for “alternative sources” if the plan is given a green light. But his first step will be to ask the Roxbury Board of Education.

“We are going to ask the school board how much they’d be willing to allocate,” Kline said, noting he will do so at the board’s July 23 meeting.

Even if the money is found, the move is likely to create other problems, said members of the council. They pointed to traffic tie-ups on Eyland Avenue and possible disenfranchisement of voters who might skip casting ballots to avoid the hassle.

Roxbury Councilman Robert DeFillippo has repeatedly suggested a solution to the problem would be to keep schools closed to students on Election Day. At Tuesday’s meeting he again raised that point.

“My concern is this has dragged on long enough,” DeFillippo said, suggesting the Mayor and Council consider passing a resolution urging the school board to close schools on Election Day. “I want us to stay focused on the safety of the students ... Money is not the main issue. I would spend the money if it made sense to spend the money.”

The council said it will wait to see what happens at the school board meeting before revisiting the resolution suggested by DeFillippo.

“I think we’ve done everything we can do,” DeFillippo said. “Even if they are willing to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars … we still haven’t addressed the disenfranchised voters. And that’s an even more serious issue.”

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