WASHINGTON — The commission President Obama launched after millions of voters stood in long lines on Election Day 2012 said Wednesday that one way to solve the polling place bottleneck problem is to use more schools as polling places. But, citing the potential for school shootings, the commission found that means more schools will have to be closed.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a blue-ribbon panel Obama first promised in his election night victory speech in November 2012, recommended more early voting options and simpler voter registration systems to avoid the snaking lines and confusion that marked Election Day 2012. The panel also recommended states open up more schools as polling places, noting that schools are election administrators’ “preferred venue” for voting due to the facilities on hand and low cost when it comes to hosting voters.
School leaders have been shying away from serving as polling since the Newtown shooting, with administrators worried that opening the doors to voters poses a security risk.
“Since the tragic events in Newtown, Conn., some states have considered imposing additional limitations on access to schools for voting,” the commission’s report states. “It is this concern — security — that has presented the largest obstacle to widespread use of schools.”
The solution proposed by the presidential commission: Close the schools to students when voters are there. From the commission’s findings:
State legislators working with school boards and election officials should be able to craft legislatively authorized programs that effectively balance school and electoral administrative needs. The Commission strongly recommends that all states review their state laws and contemporary practices within their jurisdictions to ensure the continued and future use of schools as polling places. The Commission more specifically recommends close attention to the use of professional or in-service training days to enable voting to take place on days when students would not be on location in school.
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