In wake of Uvalde, Republicans push back on law limiting police presence at polling places

In wake of Uvalde, Republicans push back on law limiting police presence at polling places

DeAnne DeFuccio

TRENTON, N.J. – In the wake of the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Assembly Republican members DeAnne DeFuccio and Robert Auth want to put police officers back into public schools being used as polling places during elections. In January 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy enacted a law that bans law enforcement from polling stations and ballot drop boxes on election days.

Their bill (A3566) would amend current law to permit a district board, superintendent of elections, or a county clerk to request the assignment of a police officer to a polling place located at a public school to maintain order and provide security during an election.

“Republicans knew limiting police from polls could prove dangerous, but now it is incredibly irresponsible to enforce this law in light of the mass shootings,” DeFuccio (R-Bergen) said. “The need to provide a safe and secure school environment cannot be paused just because we have an election. If anything, the increased public presence at our schools during elections warrants additional police protection.”

New Jersey’s Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin increased police presence in New Jersey schools the day after the Texas school shooting in the name of safety and security. However, in February, he directed law enforcement to stay away from polling locations, including public schools, to protect voters from unlawful intimidation.

Robert Auth

“We can’t have it both ways. The safety of innocent schoolchildren should supersede any supposed voter intimidation. It would be my sincere hope that every person participating in an election at a local public school would be able to put aside their personal feelings in the name of protecting innocent children,” Auth (R-Bergen) said.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities supports the bill, saying it is permissive and allows local governments to make decisions that best fits their local needs.

“The measure is especially important for rural areas that have a limited number of public places that can be utilized as polling places,” writes Loretta Buckelew, deputy executive director and executive director of government affairs.

The lawmakers’ bill has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

“We urge Speaker Craig Coughlin and Chairman Anthony Verrelli to move our bill so we can ensure our schools are properly protected by police at all times, but especially now in the wake of the horrific and senseless violence we have been experiencing,” DeFuccio and Auth said.