Friday, November 03, 2006

School's out for...Election Day?

Schools are closed on Election Day here in West Virginia. No complaints here--it misses the days of the week in which I teach, but I do get a day off from Econometrics. When I first heard this, I chalked it up as yet another "only in West Virginia" phenomenon.

Not so. Nine other states (and D.C.) close all schools on Election Day, and another nine on top of that have laws that close some school to some degree.

What is the point of this? My officemates say it's because a lot of voting places happen to be at schools; I voted in the California recall election in 2003 in the midst of many vocal elementary school students. Municipalities in every state use schools as voting grounds since they are publicly owned and necessarily local to the majority of the population.

I suspected that these ten states probably have a lower economic freedom than the rest-- not that these laws create any sort of imposing regulatory environment, but instead show a willingness to pass foolish laws (or not to purge old ones from the books). Sure enough, the school-closure states come in around 6.4 on average (though Delaware is in this group), and the rest come in at about 6.7.

I wonder if this is related to school spending? Do schools get a lump sum from the state to host an election, from which they can siphon off excess funds for other purposes?

I wonder if this is related to voting rates? I wouldn't be surprised if this lowered voter turn out rates at all-- working parents probably wouldn't be too affected, but stay-at-home parents now have kids to deal with.