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Tosa East won't be polling place for April 3 election

More changes possible before fall elections

Feb. 21, 2012

Today's primary election was the last time ballots will be cast at Wauwatosa East High School. For the general election April 3, the Ward 1 polling place will move to Fire Station 1 in the Village.

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously supported the move as part of an ongoing effort to protect students in the Wauwatosa School District.

Schools Superintendent Phil Ertl worries about the safety of students and district property on election days. Today was just one of four scheduled for 2012, with a fifth possible if a recall of Gov. Scott Walker moves forward.

The district has invested numerous dollars installing security cameras, creating plans and securing building entrances for every other day of the year. Election days should be no different, he said in an interview.

While there have been no serious problems so far, people have been found wandering the buildings and property has gone missing on past election days, Ertl said.

"It's really not a safe situation," he said. "The city has been very sensitive to our concerns."

Eighteen wards will continue to vote in school buildings, even with the move to Fire Station 1, 1601 Underwood Ave., City Clerk Carla Ledesma said. Prior to the primary, polls were moved from the District Administration Building to the city's Public Works facility.

"Some facilities, because of their floor plans, can easily segregate the voting process from the day-to-day school activities," she said naming McKinley, Washington and Roosevelt schools during a meeting of the Community Development Committee last week.

But in other buildings, polling places come much closer to students and provide relatively easy access to other parts of the school. Polls need to move from Longfellow Middle School, for instance. The library was considered as an alternative, but staff there isn't interested in hosting a polling place, Ledesma said.

The idea behind moving makes perfect sense, but finding a place to hold voting activities is a challenge, the clerk said.

Ertl said he wants to see voting activities moved out of all the schools but he understands that people get used to reporting to the same place each Election Day.

"I don't want to discourage anyone from voting," he said.

Changes to polling places need to be made 30 days prior to an election, so no additional moves are expected before April 3. However, more relocations are possible before the partisan primary in August or the presidential election in November, Ledesma said.

Alderman Jason Wilke has been talking to Ledesma about an alternative voting site to Madison Elementary School, where the gym is flanked by two hallways.

Teachers have said that strangers have entered classrooms, and they're concerned about access to common areas such as restrooms. The Parent-Teacher Association brings in volunteers to monitor hallways on election days, he said.

In some communities, polls are placed in churches or senior facilities. Hart Park Senior Center already counts among the few nonschool spaces Wauwatosa uses. Ledesma inquired with Luther Manor, but staff there pointed out that a quarantine for health issues could shut down the facility to voters without notice.

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