Despite the denunciations hurled Ken Block’s way when he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging Rhode Island was violating federal election law, the state Board of Elections took a first step Monday toward fixing what is now acknowledged to be a problem. The board gave its lawyer, Raymond Marcaccio, the go-ahead to draft potential replacements for a regulation adopted in 2008 that excludes people registering in person from a federal requirement that voters registering for the first time provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Marcaccio recommended the board remove any “ambiguity″ by removing the exclusion for these would-be voters.
But board member Stephen Erickson — a one-time state judge and Republican state lawmaker— questioned both Block’s motives and the need to adopt a “draconian all or nothing solution” that might discourage someone who could not immediately produce a driver’s license or Social Security number from registering to vote. He said only four states go this far, when there are much less punitive options in states that have voter-ID requirements at the polls, as Rhode island does.
“I think this board is acting in a responsible and appropriate manner to what I frankly see as an effort to undermine the board,” Erickson said of Block’s complaint to the Justice Department and the efforts by elections-board staff to document what other states have done to comply with the federal “Help America Vote Act.”
“We are trying to make sure that we help Americans vote, not discourage them from voting,” he said.