School Board Chair Jim Vining said the Rock Hill School District is creating a list of actions that are allowed during local elections.
During the Oct. 31 mayoral runoff election, school district officials posted on the district’s Facebook page a reminder to vote. The reminder listed both mayoral candidates and those competing for the Ward 5 seats on the Rock Hill city council. There also was a reminder to cast ballots related to the Pennies for Progress referendum.
The district made other announcements leading up to the election, including a post and recorded message on the Rock Hill Schools app.
The message read:
“Tomorrow, October 31, residents in Rock Hill will have the opportunity to elect a new mayor and, depending on the ward in which you live, a City Council member. This is a runoff election since no candidate received 50 percent of the vote in the General Election held on October 17.
If you live within the city limits of Rock Hill, please make time to visit your polling location on October 31 before trick-or-treating begins. All registered voters in York County will have another opportunity to head to the polls on Tuesday, November 7 for the county-wide vote on Pennies for Progress. Additionally, elected offices are on the November 7 ballot depending on where you live in York County.”
The message listed both mayoral candidates, John Gettys and William ‘Bump’ Roddey. The message also listed the candidates for Ward 5 for Rock Hill City Council, Nikita Jackson and incumbent Ann Williamson.
The message also included a link to upcoming elections and a link to view sample ballots by precinct.
Vining said there was some apprehension from Rock Hill school district administration regarding the reminders and what falls within board policy. He said the school board needs to have set guidelines for district administration when it comes to what to do during elections.
“We want to clear up for the board, the district and the community what we will do, what we will not do and what we might do during any election cycle,” Vining said. “There shouldn’t be any grounds for interpretation.”
Vining said the community also isn’t always aware of what the district can and will do during elections. The list would set a clear expectation, he said.
Some examples of what the district may do is notify the community when schools are used as polling places, encourage community members be informed, register to vote, and ensure all candidates or parties have equal access, if allowed, to use district property for political activity, Vining said.
During the recent elections, Rock Hill schools were used as polling places, Vining said.
“Parents need to know when different types of activities are going on at the schools,” he said. “We are obligated to notify our community when schools are used as polling places while in session.”
The district, for example, would not allow political activity by district employees during school hours, nor would it allow the use of district devices for political activity.
The examples are subject to change and legal review, Vining said. There is no discussion of changing board policy at this time, he said.
Vining said another goal is to involve students and educate them on the election process. One idea is to hold forums during school board candidate elections and involve students in the planning process.
The hope, Vining said, is to encourage them while they are young to vote later in life.
“Young people do not vote,” he said. “We are the largest education community in Rock Hill. I think we have a historical role in making sure we do that service.”
School board member Jane Sharp said part of the district’s job is to encourage students and citizens to vote.
“It will be good for us to have guidelines in place for the future,” she said.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082