The ugly, and oftentimes incendiary, rhetoric spewed by presidential candidates this election season has prompted some schools across the U.S. to move polling places out of schools or cancel classes altogether for fear of Election Day violence.
According to the Associated Press, recent acts of violence, like the firebombing of a Republican party headquarters in North Carolina last week, has some school officials on edge and not willing to take any chances when it comes to students’ safety.
Election Day worries have also been stoked by the instigative, and sometimes violent, rhetoric of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has repeatedly claimed this year’s election is rigged. The reality TV star turned politician has also encouraged his right-wing supporters to stand guard at the polls to scope out potential voter fraud.
Parents and school leaders are worried that heightened tensions could lead to violent confrontations between self-appointed “poll watchers” and voters, the Associated Press reports.
“If it’s going to be as chaotic as they say it’s going to be, it’s a good thing [schools are closing],” said Alpay Balkir, a parent in Falmouth, Maine who expressed relief that his young son would be out of school on Election Day. “Kids should stay out of it. I don’t know what the environment is going to be like.”
According to the Christian Science Monitor, school officials in Illinois, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin have made similar calls to remove voter polls from places of learning or to simply close schools on Nov. 8.
Instead of reassigning polling places — which are usually located in schools due to their centralized locations — some have suggested an increased presence of armed policemen or guards at the polls. The National Association of Secretaries of State has denounced the idea for fear that armed officials would inadvertently intimidate those in line to vote. The potential for Election Day trouble is still a major concern, however.
“There is a concern, just like at a concert, sporting event or other public gathering that we didn’t have 15 or 20 years ago,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, co-chairman of the National Association of Secretaries of State election committee. “What if someone walks in a polling location with a backpack bomb or something? If that happens at a school, then that’s certainly concerning.”
Perceived threats from lone-wolf patriots and self-described “Christian Soldiers” like Jim Moseley of South Carolina have both school and election officials in some states prepping for troublemakers ahead of the election.
Earlier this week, 59-year-old Moseley — an avid Trump supporter — warned of an impending race war if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the race to the White House.
“Once the trucks stop rolling, the grocery shelves will go empty and gasoline rationing will go into effect,” Moseley wrote in a Facebook post this week. “Liberals will have targets on their backs, as their behaviors are pretty much evident. Race wars will begin as well, as your skin color will be your uniform.”
Such rhetoric has led poll workers in Denver to undergo required active shooter training just in case of an emergency, Atlanta Black Star reports. This is the first time they’ve had to take such a precaution.
Sara Andriotis, a mother in Easton, Pennsylvania who advocated for schools being closed on Nov. 8, said the safety of her kids is of the utmost importance amid the imminent chaos of Election Day.
“We were mostly concerned because of the risk that it puts our children in,” Andriotis said.