Dear Secretary Merrill,
Last month's presidential primary marked the 4th election I have moderated. It was the first election where I saw a police officer, present.
the Moderator's Handbook section, "Who May Be Present in the Polls",
Sec. B-11, it states that police officers may be present "as necessary
in performance of their official duties". I'm fairly certain that in
the re-certification training class earlier this year, it was even more
specific; that a police officer may only be present in response to being
called for a specific incident. (The exception being if the officer
was present to vote in his own precinct.)
I noticed the officer at around 7:30, I questioned him as to why he was
there, and he told me he
was "hired to be there". I then called the
Registrar's office and was informed that the officer's presence was
requested by school officials out of concern over people freely coming
in and out of the building, which is normally locked during school
fully understand school officials concerns. Being "gun free" zones,
(at least the ones located at schools), our polling places are soft
targets for terrorists, nut cases, etc., which is why I have advocated
to certain elected officials for legislation allowing election officials
who possess permits to carry pistols and revolvers to carry a concealed
firearm at the polls. It is a well-documented fact that the
possibility of armed citizens being present, is a deterrent to crime.
my interpretation of the rules regarding the presence of police
officers at polling places suggest that this officer's presence was in
violation of the rules. I later learned that; because of after school
activities, students and faculty would be in the building until 6:00 PM.
about 3:30, the first officer was relieved. The second office remained
present in the building until the close of the poll at 8:00. And
according to my interpretation, that officer's presence was also a
Even if the presence of these officer at the request of school officials were not
a violation of the rules, given that students and faculty had left the
building at 6:00, the second officer should have left at that time, too.
I'm not faulting the officers, nor am I faulting anyone.
(By the way, both officers were very nice and were invited to share the
food provided by Neon Deli.) The fact remains, as I see it, the
officers were not there in the performance of their official duties,
(i.e. in response to an incident), they were there in the capacity of a
private security guard, being paid overtime in the same manner as a
police officer hanging out at a road construction site. By the same
token, EMS personnel could hang out, just in case someone had a heart
attack while voting.
the very least, there seems to be a need for clarification as to what
constitutes "as necessary in performance of official duties" and
moderators, registrars and assistant registrars need to be given advance
notice and officers need to to be instructed to report to the moderator
upon entering the building.
even legislation or official rules need to be adopted allowing for, or
requiring the presence of, police officers at polling locations.
presents another issue, in itself. There are potentially thousands of
polling locations around the state. (If I have my figures right, there
are ten voting locations in Middletown, alone.) What would it cost the
cities and towns to pay the cost of a police officer at every location?
would cost a considerable amount, given the officers are paid overtime
and that O.T. pay (I think) is part of the calculation for an officer's
pension. At $75.00 per hour, counting O.T., benefits, and so forth,
multiplied by the 12.5 hours the two officers were present, it would
cost taxpayers $937.50 per poll, or, $937,500.00 per 1,000 polling
could cost taxpayers millions of dollars per election and in some
years, like this one, there are multiple elections. Extend the hourly
cost to the entire 14 hrs. the polls are open; add the additional hours
it takes to set up and close, and the cost goes even higher.
I started writing this letter, I did not intend to circle back to this
point, but after calculating the cost, this is where it lead. While the
risk of an incident occurring at any particular polling place is
minimal, as moderator, I'm responsible for the safety and well being of
all the election officials and voters who enter my poll. I understand
and share the concerns of school officials (and being one; the concerns
of parents and grandparents) and keep a vigilant eye open for any sign
given the minimal risk to any one location, the cost of hiring armed
guards to guard every poll is difficult to justify. On the other hand .
. . there is always a chance of something going awry; somewhere,
holders have undergone extensive FBI background checks. They have
taken and passed rigorous training programs. They have adequately
demonstrated they are responsible citizens and proficient with a
The knowledge that there may be responsible armed citizens at the polls ready to respond to a threat, may well discourage and prevent a tragic incident. It would cost taxpayers zero dollars.
urge the Secretary to work with legislators to develop legislation
allowing election officials who possess valid carry permits to quietly
and discreetly conceal-carry their personal firearms, while on duty.
Very truly yours,
William Boylan, Moderator
Secretary Merrill responded to my email:ReplyDelete
Hi Bill. This was a particularly difficult issue on primary day in several towns. Most schools close now on the general election day, but are open for primaries and other election days. Since the Sandy Hook incident, schools are particularly concerned about security, and there were situations where preparations did not include things like separate entrances for voters during school hours. I believe that is why there was security at the polls on primary day at some polling locations that are in school buildings.
We will have to review this problem and see if something needs to be done to either change the statutes to reflect this concern or come up with alternative polling locations if the schools are in session, or perhaps other solutions. The problem is certainly understandable.
Thanks for bringing it to our attention.