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Idaho AG says schools can ban electioneers on election days

Politics

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COEUR D’ALENE (AP) — The Idaho Attorney General’s office says a northern Idaho school district was within its rights to remove an electioneering demonstrator from elementary school property on Election Day.

In a legal analysis released Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Robert Berry wrote that schools may control their property even when it is being used as a polling place, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.

“Idaho law requires schools to provide their premises as polling locations,” Berry wrote. “However, public schools are not traditional public forums. Schools may control their property while it is being used as a polling place, and may exclude individuals from school property not involved in the voting process.”

Schools can also prohibit people from engaging in electioneering or similar activities within 100 feet of school property when the school is acting as a polling place, he wrote.

The opinion came at the request of Coeur d’Alene School District attorney Megan O’Dowd. The district has been criticized by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, which claims school officials committed political discrimination by removing conservative demonstrators while allegedly allowing others with different political viewpoints to stay during past elections.

Kootenai County Republican Central Committee attorney Jeremy Ray Morris said the committee plans to sue the district over the allegations. He rejected the Idaho attorney general’s findings.

“Once again, the state Attorneys General have it wrong,” Morris said Thursday. “Based on this terribly flawed opinion, anyone living within 100 feet of (school property) would be prohibited from even having a sign on their property, turning large swaths of our local community into criminals.”

Scott Maben, the spokesman for the school district, said the district was grateful for the attorney general’s analysis. Maben said the district’s top priority is the safety of students and staffers, and the district works to make sure people can navigate its parking lots and buildings safely on election days.

“Our position has never been about any one group or political party,” Maben said. “Anyone who engages in electioneering or political activity on school property will be asked to move off school property, and previously we have notified other groups and individuals that this is our position.”

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