Parents demand more security as voters cast ballots at busy schools

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – Parents were so concerned about having voters walk in and out of their school that the PTA decided to pay for an officer to man the polling area at Crestwood Elementary Tuesday.

It’s a solution they thought would ease parents' anxiety, but they were upset when they learned that wasn't an option.

When it comes to children's safety at school, Birgitte Tingley said that you cannot be too careful these days.

"Do we wait for something to happen and then say, ‘Oh gosh, maybe we should hold elections elsewhere?" Tingley said.

Tingley said that she and other Crestwood Elementary parents are against having their school as a polling site when classes are in session.

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"Last year parents were not notified that the election was going on and all the student were in class. So kids were in the cafeteria eating lunch -- doors were wide open, people were coming and going.

Tingley said this year the PTA tried to hire an armed officer to work at the school that day, but said county police and the sheriff’s office declined their offer.

“We have to actually refuse your request because there's a law in place against allowing police on site  during election activities.”

Registrar Larry Haake said having an officer at the polls is extremely rare.

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“It was done once in Chesterfield and that was shortly after 911 and we had been warned of impending incident and we took the necessary precaution,” said Haake.

But parents like said Esther Wong- Hershman something has to give.

“If there is no other way, I'd like to see the dates changed or the location changed,” Wong-Hershman said.

Haake said he has been pushing the attorney general for two years to move the primary forward by a week to avoid the problem to no avail.

“I think if these parents exercised their leverage… they could achieve a better goal than all of these safety concerns,” Haake said.

The school system said voters will be required to use a specific door to get into the music classroom to vote and nearby gym doors will be locked as will other doors connecting the voting area and the main building.