EG Says No to ‘Playtime at the Polls’

by | Feb 20, 2020

Above: Meg Carnaroli of Playtime at the Polls talks about the program at the Town Council meeting Feb. 10.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The idea is the brainchild of Scituate resident Meg Carnaroli: provide an activity table staffed with volunteers at local polling places on Election Day where young children can hang out while their parents vote. 

A couple of years ago, Carnaroli, a parent of two young children herself, was looking at voting rates among different age groups and noticed that young people vote 25 percent less often than those 65 and older. 

“I’m a teacher and a camp counselor and I thought that was something I could do something about,” she said. 

Carnaroli started talking with family and friends about a way to help parents of young children vote more easily. The result was Playtime at the Polls, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is offering its services to cities and towns across Rhode Island for the Nov. 3 general election. 

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has endorsed the program and, so far, 14 communities have signed on. East Greenwich is not among them. 

Playtime at the Polls would offer kids an opportunity to vote too.

At the Town Council meeting Feb. 10, Carnaroli spoke during public comment hoping to recruit support. The idea, according to Carnaroli, is that Playtime would supply trained volunteers and offer activities for the children. The volunteers would have background checks and the effort is insured, she said. 

“We don’t take custody of the children,” Carnaroli explained. Instead, it’s more like when children get their face painted at a fair. “The idea is we don’t want the children to be out of the line of sight of parents,” she said. “We just supervise.”

Councilwoman Caryn Corenthal said she was supportive of the effort but Town Manager Andrew Nota and Town Clerk Leigh Carney both expressed less enthusiasm, especially in a presidential election year.

The Board of Canvassers discussed the proposal at its meeting Feb. 11. They did not take a formal vote, but the general consensus was to decline the program.

“The board … felt that for this particular election season, the risk of a mishap is greater than the benefits of the program and, therefore, declined to engage but is willing to reconsider in the future,” said Town Clerk Leigh Carney.

According to Carnaroli, two other towns have declined to use the program: West Greenwich and Warren, both citing space constraints. Find a link to Playtime at the Polls HERE.

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Judi Zimmer
Judi Zimmer
February 20, 2020 8:45 pm

Very short-sighted and senseless. the object is to enable MORE people to vote, not fewer.

Laura Carlson
February 21, 2020 8:14 am

I sincerely hope EG will reconsider their decision before the 2020 election. Beyond encouraging more people to vote, Playtime engages children in the democratic process! Lessons in civic responsibility tend to stick when taught to young children, and isn’t that what we should be encouraging?

Joannie Hinman
Joannie Hinman
February 21, 2020 9:05 am

I’m surprised by that decision- Playtime at the Polls seemed like a nice idea. My first exposure to voting had a positive flavor because there was always a bake sale- loved going with my mom. What a shame it is to be operating from a position of fear regarding potential risks for this election cycle. Perhaps that is prudent…but it doesn’t make it any less sad.

Carol Rinaldi
Carol Rinaldi
February 21, 2020 4:58 pm

I have six grown children, I always took whomever was young with me. They learned about the process watching me vote. Do kids need to be entertained all the time? Somehow I think some people expect too little from their children behavior wise. Just my opinion, please take no offense EG parents.

Judy Stenberg
Judy Stenberg
February 21, 2020 6:40 pm

The polls are not a place for small children’s play areas. While I sympathize with people who have a need for child-minding, this could cause unneeded distraction at the polls. As a long-time poll worker, I cannot endorse this idea.

Judi Zimmer
Judi Zimmer
February 21, 2020 7:43 pm
Reply to  Judy Stenberg

Because it’s so much better to have those kids running around instead of being in one place with minders making sure they and the voters are all safe and secure.

February 24, 2020 12:00 pm
Reply to  Judi Zimmer

I have never once seen children running around at the polls in EG! Here’s an idea, how about you take your child into the booth and explain what you’re doing and why it’s important…

Judi Zimmer
Judi Zimmer
February 24, 2020 2:39 pm
Reply to  Tom

I’ve never seen an avalanche. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen. I don’t mean to sound snarky, but for everyone who hasn’t seen it, someone has seen it. This is primarily an issue for women, and I think that in many cases, men are just unaware of the difficulties involved for a woman with several young children to have voter parity with people who don’t. I’m reminded of the phrase, ‘it’s like herding cats.’

John Taylor
John Taylor
February 22, 2020 9:30 am

I am glad EG didn’t rush ahead and put it through like most RI cities and towns would do. Isn’t that what “socialism” wants? I see a potential good idea that should be taught in school and taking it out of the families hands. It will create more work for the parents IMO. Not only will they have to be informed of what they are voting on, but will now have the added burden of finding out what the child is actually seeing. I am not a parent so I do not know what they go through on voting day.

Judi Zimmer
Judi Zimmer
February 22, 2020 11:37 am

Socialism? Seriously? How about enabling more people to vote? Or is that socialism. As far as ‘ Not only will they have to be informed of what they are voting on, but will now have the added burden of finding out what the child is actually seeing’, I have absolutely no idea what you mean. As a man with no children, perhaps you should hold off on your opinion until you speak with mothers who have several children and a ton of other obligations that would prevent them having the opportunity to vote unencumbered.

Laura Carlson
February 22, 2020 8:28 pm

Yeah Judy, Preach! 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

Laura Carlson
February 22, 2020 8:31 pm

That’s Judi with an “i”

February 24, 2020 2:21 pm

If children are going to be allowed at the polls, supervised by someone other then their parents then why close the schools on election days🤷🏻‍♀️
Fewer lost days of school, which everyone is looking for to not have the school year run so late into June, when it’s hot as hell in the buildings.


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