Lynbrook School District Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak said she contacted the Fifth Precinct of the Nassau County Police Department after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that expanded the right to vote to individuals on parole, including those convicted of sexual offenses.
Burak said at the Sept. 12 Board of Education meeting that she did so to ensure that there were no registered sex offenders living within the school district’s limits who would be eligible to vote in school buildings, and was reassured that there weren’t any.
When he signed the order in April, Cuomo said that expanding the right to vote to the almost 35,000 New Yorkers on parole would “reduce disenfranchisement and will restore justice and fairness to our democratic process.”
“It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society,” he said in a statement.
Under the executive order, a registered sex offender must contact his or her parole officer, who would send a superintendent a letter requesting permission for them to vote at a school. If the permission is granted, a sex offender can only vote between 7 and 9 p.m. and may not loiter afterward.
But some Lynbrook School District officials said they were still wary of the executive order. Trustee Heather Hanson questioned who would ensure that the sex offender is only in the school in the permitted timeframe, and Florence Frazer, an attorney who advises the board, said that it would be difficult for school officials to identify the offender once he or she enters a school building.
“I think the biggest problem here is that these people are not wearing a scarlet letter,” she said. “So those people at the polling place, including the principals, are not going to be able to identify them.”
Last school year, Burak worked with East Rockaway School District Superintendent Lisa Ruiz to petition the Board of Elections to eliminate voting in school buildings. As a result, Burak said, the board stopped using Marion Street School as a polling place, though registered voters will now go to Lynbrook South Middle School.
“They keep saying they need a government building where there’s enough parking for every registered voter to come and vote,” Burak said of her discussions with the Board of Elections.
But, she said, Cuomo’s executive order “is just one more reason we should not have voting in our schools.”