Making Election Day a school holiday

Washoe County seems to have created a problem rather than solving one with its plan to give students a holiday on general election days.

The idea is to lessen the congestion around schools, 44 of which are used as polling places there. School officials, who approved the plan this week, say students won't miss any school because the district will combine two half-days of teacher training into a full day.

Our first reaction is to say thank goodness Carson City and most of Lyon and Douglas counties don't depend on schools as polling places. Apparently Reno can't find enough buildings capable of hosting the elections, so schools become a convenient choice.

Convenient for election officials, but not so much for parents. Now they can add yet another holiday to the schedule for finding babysitters or a place in day care. Or, in the case of quite a few, simply leaving school-age children at home and hoping for the best.

No, schools aren't supposed to be day-care centers. But who says they have to be polling places, too?

The Washoe County plan was in response to long lines at polling places during the last election. Voters waited for hours in some cases to cast their ballots.

How a school holiday solves this problem isn't particularly clear to us. Wouldn't it make more sense to devise a better system for voters, buy more voting machines, hire more election judges and reduce the wait?

Carson City is obviously much smaller than Reno, but the practice here of using a few large centralized locations - the mall, the community center - for all the precincts works very well. There were relatively long lines at the last election, but they moved swiftly.

Douglas and Lyon - again, different situations from Reno - are able to find enough community centers, fire stations, senior centers and the like for their polls.

Maybe Washoe County's plan will work out fine. If it only adds frustrated parents to frustrated voters, it won't.


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