ROXBURY, NJ – Removing voting from Roxbury schools doesn’t seem very likely, although sub-committees of the Roxbury Township Council and the Roxbury School Board continue to discuss its feasibility.
But at least one Roxbury resident wants to know if most people in town really care.
Shawn Potillo, an alternate member of the Roxbury Planning Board, came to the microphone during the public portion of Tuesday’s council meeting to question the motivation and necessity for all the time and effort being put into the subject.
“I’m a pretty involved parent,” he said. “Other than the obvious tragedies that happened in our nation, what is the driving force behind moving these elections? Is it (wanted by) the vast majority of the parents of the students in the schools?
He stressed that he’s “not for or not against it either way,” and wasn’t “downplaying the safety” of children, but Potillo - who attends most meetings of the Roxbury Mayor and Council - wondered, “How do we even know our community even wants this? Because two or three people came and asked?
The idea that using schools for polling sites is dangerous and needs to stop was raised in November by Roxbury resident Minnie Borrero, who came to a council meeting to discuss the topic. Borrero subsequently launched a campaign to become a member of the school board.
Her point – that allowing the public into schools to vote while children are present creates a security risk – was embraced by Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic. She also came to the council to urge the removal of polls from schools.
Although the matter remains under discussion, a council sub-committee preliminarily determined in July that the only feasible way to move elections from schools would be to use the township building at Horseshoe Lake Park as a massive polling site.
Earlier this month, the council passed a resolution calling on the school board to close schools on Election Day. Radulic and the school board insist doing so would be educationally improper, especially during November elections when schools are already closed Thursday and Friday for the annual state teachers’ convention.
Still Going Back and Forth
Despite the council’s resolution, the matter continues to be discussed by the council and school board sub-committees. That seemed to prompt Potillo to question whether the public officials’ constituents find the matter worthy of so much effort.
“I’m not downplaying the safety of our children and our residents, but it just seems that there’s a lot of money that could be put to other uses in a community,” Potillo said. “I mean, if a majority of our parents in those schools came and said, ‘Listen, this is what we should do. We should go forward and move faster and stronger’ … But it seems the two of you are butting your heads anyway. Can it be that we just blatantly say, ‘No, we don’t want to this?’”
Potillo said he’s been voting in Nixon School for many years. “I’ve never felt unsafe,” he said. “You can’t even get past the (police officer) in there.“
He jokingly questioned what happens in other schools where people “run wild” on Election Day putting students at risk.
“It just seems there’s a lot of resources being put into something that maybe the entire township doesn’t want,” Potillo said. “Now the voices of two or three people are going to change the entire township, disenfranchise voters, change voting facilities for people?”
Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline gave his side of the matter.
“The driving force why I began to investigate this matter - and I believe that a lot of council joined on in thinking this is an important issue - is that members of our community came to us requesting if we could do something or if we could look into it,” he said. “So for me, at least, the driving force was people in our community voicing their concerns to the town council.”
Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley said the “two or three” people who brought up the matter were “enough for us to put together the sub-committee.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Roxbury Councilwoman Jaki Albrecht, a member of the council subcommittee studying the matter, said 30 of Roxbury’s 44 voting machines are in schools.
She said the subcommittee recently met with the school board’s similar ad-hoc committee.
“They weren’t asking us why we feel they need to close the schools,” she said. “They just kept going over the reasons on why they can’t … I do feel our committee has done due diligence in looking for alternative locations.”