Va. district, fearing Trump supporters, wants to close schools for primary
© Getty Images

A Virginia school district is considering closing schools for the state’s March 1 primary, citing concerns that supporters of GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNewsweek settles with Sputnik writer Trump: Why aren't 'beleaguered AG,' investigators looking at Hillary Clinton? Kushner says meeting with Russian lawyer a 'waste of our time' MORE will be unruly.

ADVERTISEMENT
Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Katherine Hanley said the worry stems from a Republican Party rule that requires voters to affirm their party affiliation before casting a ballot. Trump has slammed such GOP loyalty pledges.

“If you say: ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I have to say: ‘You don’t get a ballot,'” Hanley told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday before it voted to ask school officials to cancel classes, according to The Washington Post.

“That’s what this provision is,” said Hanley, a Democrat who formerly chaired the Board of Supervisors from 1995 to 2003 and served in the cabinet of former Gov. Tim Kaine (D). “That’s about as contentious as anything we can possibly be doing in a polling place on Election Day.”

Republican leaders in the state say the pledge will help to keep Democrats from voting in the party’s primary, throwing off the will of the party. But Trump has argued it will only dissuade voters who want to support a Republican candidate but are frustrated with the establishment.

The Trump campaign called the concerns “preposterous.”

“This is just an attempt by a Democrat and probably some establishment Republicans to malign and disparage Trump supporters and also to characterize conservative speech as hate speech,” Trump’s Virginia chairman Corey Stewart told the Post.

Fairfax County Superintendent Karen Garza said in an email to parents and staff on Tuesday that the suggestion to close schools came as a “complete surprise.”

“At this time, there are no plans to close schools for the entire day on March 1,” she said in the email.

“For many years, schools have been open and serving as polling locations without incident,” she continued. “We work closely with election officials, our security team and law enforcement to ensure the safety of all.”

A total of 167 schools in the county will serve as polling stations on primary day, with up to a quarter of a million voters expected.

County supervisors voted 9 to 1 to ask schools to cancel classes. 

Officials had already decided to open schools two hours later on primary day to accommodate what is expected to be an unusually high turnout.