Virginia House OKs Election Day as public school holiday

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill requiring state public schools treat Election Day as a school holiday.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the House on Tuesday passed the bill, which seeks to prevent interactions between voters and students as a safety measure. Del. Paul Krizek says schools can't properly screen voters without slowing down voting lines, thereby creating a security concern. The Senate rejected its version of the bill Monday.

Last week, a panel in the Senate also rejected a separate bill that would have designated Election Day as a state holiday.

In Virginia in November, voter turnout was below 60 percent. Research shows the U.S. has lower voter turnout than most developed countries — many of which hold elections on weekends or designate the day as a national holiday.

But the bill's way of allowing for the state holiday by removing Lee-Jackson Day led to concern from Republican legislators, who voted it down.

The House bill passed on Tuesday applies to November general elections. It was recommended by the school safety committee established by House Speaker Kirk Cox after 17 people died in the Parkland school shooting last year.

The Virginia School Boards Association says the bill is too broad as it shuts down every public school, regardless of their use as a polling place.