The vast majority of Americans have been voting in public schools since the mid-20th century. The main reasons why public schools are chosen as polling places are accessibility and centrality. Public schools are typically located in the center or heart of most communities, making them easily accessible for the majority of eligible voters. Additionally, schools often have adequate parking, handicap accessibility, and child care services, making it easier for individuals to participate in the democratic process.
The idea of using public schools has been used since the 1950s. During this time period, a law known as the “Youth Vote” was passed, which enabled 18-year-olds to vote in national elections. Schools were seen as the perfect polling places as it was believed they would be the most convenient and accessible places for these newly eligible individuals to cast their votes.
The focus during the 1950s and 1960s on youth voting and the need for schools as polling locations made them a common choice for other forms of elections. Soon, the trend spread to local and state elections and schools cemented themselves as the go-to option for polling places. Today, most states and localities have adopted rules requiring or encouraging the use of public schools as polling sites, making them the most frequently used place for Americans to cast their vote.