Voters fill out ballots in sunshine outside Schenectady High School

School evacuated after hollowed-out grenades found in backpack and fire breaks out in bathroom.
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In what may be a first for Schenectady, dozens of voters filled out their ballots outside today.

The high school was evacuated for roughly two hours after a student reported seeing two grenades in another student’s backpack. At the same time, a fire broke out in a bathroom trash can, school spokeswoman Karen Corona said.

Police evacuated the building, including the polling site, while they investigated. They discovered that the grenades were not live — the cores had been hollowed out, Corona said.

The fire caused some smoke but no damage.

The biggest impact was on the polling site, a busy location that had a line of voters waiting when the emergency began.

Poll workers carried the polling booths and ballot readers outside and set up in the parking lot.

Every voting booth was filled as soon as the tables were set up. Voters didn’t complain — and in fact, some seemed delighted to walk up to the school and discover that voting was happening in the sunshine.

“It’s beautiful. I think it’s a beautiful day to vote outside,” said resident Debbie Hazard.

Resident Rosemary Mazzone was among many who noted that this was the first time they’d ever voted outside.

“It’s interesting, to say the least,” Mazzone said, but added that it didn’t discourage her from voting. “I think people are pretty determined to get out and vote.”

The Plaza, the road in front of the high school, was briefly closed to traffic. But crossing guards directed voters to get to the school from an alternate direction, from which they could park next to the outdoor polling booths.

Polling worker Kelvin Atkins, who was working the information desk, said he watched closely to see if any voters left while they relocated outside.

“A few people might’ve left out of frustration, but people were standing in the parking lot waiting patiently,” he said.

Voters who arrived after the relocation accepted the outdoor voting without question.

“Nobody’s complained or anything. They think we’re trying out something new,” Atkins said.

Thinking back to recent years in which it snowed on Election Day, he added, “It’s just nice that it’s nice out. Thank god.”

Poll workers said it took them 10 to 15 minutes to move outside. When the school reopened, there were so many voters filling out ballots that Election Commissioner Art Brassard told the workers to stay outdoors until everyone had voted. They waited for a lull, about 45 minutes later, before moving indoors again.

“We didn’t want the voters to feel any more frustration than they do now,” Brassard said.

Poll workers would not have been able to move the old voting machines outdoors, he added. Those needed electricity and were too heavy to move easily.

“We probably would have had to come up with some kind of paper ballot system,” Brassard said.

The machines would have been left inside. But with the new machines, poll workers were able to carry the locked ballot box with them.

“The ballots were always secure,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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