Guns Make Voting Even Harder

Christopher Flavelle writes editorials on health care, energy and environment for Bloomberg View. He was a senior policy analyst for Bloomberg Government and chief speechwriter for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
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If you want to feel truly dispirited about the health of U.S. democracy, skip the stories about Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell and go straight to today's report on the American voting experience.

The report, by a presidentially appointed commission that included the campaign attorneys for both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, looked at the problems that plague U.S. elections -- everything from needlessly long lines at the polls, inaccurate voter lists and aging voting machines to a failure to make polling places accessible for the disabled or those with limited English.

One of the report's more distressing findings centered on the effect mass shootings have on Americans' ability to cast a ballot. The commission noted that schools are the best venue for polling places: "They have the needed and desirable space, are inexpensive, widespread, conveniently located, and accessible for people with disabilities."

But the December 2012 Newtown shooting has led some states to look at limiting access to schools for voting. "It is this concern -- security -- that has presented the largest obstacle to widespread use of schools," the commission reports, in what appears to be a reference to the risks of letting voters, some of whom may be armed, get too close to school kids. It goes on: "Even in states where schools are authorized to serve as polling places, the Commission heard that many school districts resist using schools as polling places for this reason. This resis­tance can even extend to cases where the schools appear obligated to make themselves available by statute, but have adopted strategies to avoid being pressed into service."

In other words, to the many ugly consequences of America's increasing embrace of gun rights, we can now add making it more difficult to cast a ballot. The commission proposes dealing with those concerns by sending children home on election day to keep them out of harm's way; meanwhile, "teachers could use the day to perform administrative functions and conduct professional training." (Some school districts, including New York City,already do so, while not necessarily citing safety as the reason.) It's worth dwelling on the absurdity of it all: The profusion of gun violence means more U.S. communities feel compelled to weigh making voting easier against educating, and protecting, their children.

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Christopher Flavelle at