Saying it would eliminate long lines like those many voters stood in for hours in November, state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has proposed a bill that would allow Rhode Islanders to cast their votes over the course of about three weeks before Election Day. Ruggiero has introduced legislatio n that would allow early voting in Rhode Island beginning the third Thursday before a primary, general or special election. Registered voters would be able to cast their ballot in person at designated locations from that Thursday until the Friday before the scheduled election. Early voting would take place on weekdays, with hours that begin no later than 9 a.m. and end no earlier than 4:30 p.m. The bill has the backing of Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
Articles about voting issues in Rhode Island.
Last November, some providence polling places were packed for hours, with long lines…and frustrated voters. Now a state lawmakers is proposing early voting – letting people cast ballots up to three weeks before election day. State Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-Rhode Island) said, “It was the perfect storm. You know we had polling places that were reduced. We closed the closing times at polls 8 o’clock versus 9 o’clock. Some people were confused as to where they voted.” Republicans are worried, saying more voting days may lead to more mistakes.
With a new Senate bill on the table and the House Oversight Committee looking to make changes to election procedures in Rhode Island, it may be possible that the state’s newly implemented voter ID law will soon be yesterday’s news. Rhode Island passed the voter identification law in 2011, and 2012 marked the first election year when non-photo ID’s were required of all voters. Come 2014, photo ID’s will be required for Rhode Islanders to cast their votes, an issue that’s been a point of contention for voters and legislators alike. Thirty states currently have some sort of voter ID law, though most do not require photo identification; though for some states, like Rhode Island, that could change in the next few years. But freshman Senator Gayle Goldin (D-Providence) is hopeful a bill she’s introduced will erase the voter ID law from the books altogether. Goldin takes over long-time representative Rhoda Perry’s seat in District 3 and represents a chunk of the East Side of Providence. Goldin said she many constituent complaints about the voter ID law during her campaign in the fall. “My district [is] people who really believe in creating an equitable society and making sure the decisions we make statewide continue to respect and create that equitable society,” said Goldin.
The Rhode Island House will examine the reasons for long lines and ballot mix-ups seen in last fall’s election in the hopes of preventing similar problems the next time voters head to the polls. The House Oversight Committee agreed Thursday to focus on the election mishaps. It will be the first task the oversight panel has taken up in the two years since it last met. Large crowds of voters overwhelmed one Providence polling place in the November election, leading to hours-long lines and voter frustration.
Moderate Party chairman and former gubernatorial candidate Ken Block is leading an effort to abolish the so-called master lever, which allows for straight ticket voting with one mark on the ballot in Rhode Island elections. Block has launched a website and that gives voters the opportunity to e-mail Governor Lincoln Chafee and House and Senate leadership on the issue. As on Sunday, Block said in a Facebook post that close to 3,000 e-mails had been sent. Only 16 states across the country allow straight ticket voting. Three states eliminated the option in the 1990’s and two more have done so since 2000.
The state Board of Elections will ask the General Assembly to approve the purchase of new voting machines for precincts across the state. Robert Kando, the board’s executive director, estimated the purchase would cost $9 million to $10 million and would be spread over eight or nine years under a lease-to-own agreement.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has denied challenger Carlos Tobon’s bid for a manual recount of the Pawtucket House race he lost by one-vote, after four ballot counts produced four different results. In a 3-to-2 decision Friday, the high court said the state Board of Elections had already provided to Tobon – who lost to longtime state Rep. William San Bento 544 to 543 – all of the relief the law requires, including a “manual re-feeding of ballots” into the voting machines and “a manual recount of those ballots rejected by the machine.” Read the decision: Carlos Tobon v. Rhode Island Board of Elections et al. No. 2012-289-M.P. (Order).pdf
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Armando Batastini filed a petition in Rhode Island Supreme Court on Monday asking the court to order the Board of Elections to conduct a manual recount of all precinct, mail and provisional ballots cast in the House District 58 Democratic primary.
Candy McSwain and Bonnie Stevenson, two poll workers in this city’s diverse Elmwood neighborhood, peered at Jeziel Jared Lopez’s passport and expired state ID card and consulted the state’s new list of acceptable forms of voter identification. “It says U.S. passport,” said Ms. McSwain, pointing to the list. “This is O.K.,” Ms. Stevenson said, clearing the way for Mr. Lopez, 18, to vote for the first time. Rhode Island’s state primary on Tuesday gave its new voter identification law its most strenuous exercise yet, stirring dissent and praise from voters who lined up with ID cards, while officials reported few identification-related voting problems. The law, which went into effect this year, requires voters to show a photo ID, bank statement or government-issued document before they are allowed to vote. Its list of accepted forms of identification will become more restrictive in 2014, when only photo IDs will be accepted.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis said the voter fraud allegations made by congressional candidate Anthony Gemma were “concerning” and questioned whether the candidate should have held a news conference to present his findings. “You have someone going on for a half hour with allegations and not much to back it up,” said Ralph Mollis. “You want people to participate and to have confidence in the process.” On Wednesday Anthony Gemma leveled stunning allegations of voter fraud against his Democratic rival, incumbent Congressman David Cicilline. Those allegations included coaxing people to vote, getting individuals to cast multiple ballots at multiple polling places, teaching underage individuals how to vote fraudulently, abusing the absentee ballot system, using dead voters’ names to cast ballots, tampering with electronic voting machines and registering to vote at businesses and vacant lots. Gemma claimed the fraud took place in Providence between 2002 and 2010.