Ken Block, a two-time former gubernatorial candidate, made headlines in early October 2017 over a provocative tweet regarding voter identification (“voter-ID”) and mail-in ballots. Mr. Block claimed that mail-in ballots violated Rhode Island’s voter-ID law and are effectively a “gigantic, illegal loophole” to performing widespread voter fraud. Block implored the Rhode Island legislature to attend to this matter immediately. In response, Mr. Stephen Erickson, a Rhode Island State Board of Elections member, considered such a measure as “another effort to limit people’s ability to vote.” Mr. Erickson asserted that the Board “regularly rejects mail[-in] ballots where there is a substantial difference between the two signatures or if the witnesses does not provide enough information so that they can be identified and questioned.”
Each state manages its own elections, so naturally each state facilitates its own absentee voter process and voter-ID requirements. Rhode Island is one of twenty states which requires an accepted excuse to justify absentee voting. Additionally, Rhode Island’s voter-ID law requires voters to present one of seven possible photo identifications, or one of three identifications without photograph, to vote. But as Mr. Block highlighted, Rhode Island does not require voter-IDs to vote via mail-in ballot. This is potentially problematic because many people use mail-in ballots to vote in Rhode Island. Out of the nearly 465,000 Rhode Island votes cast in the 2016 presidential race, over 40,000 ballots were through mail-in ballots.