City officials say they won’t soon forget the “historic failure” of the 2016 election in Pawtucket, saying they don’t want to see the interminable lines and disenfranchisement of voters ever again. The City Council is asking the Rhode Island Secretary of State and Board of Elections for an explanation of what happened in Pawtucket, which saw the worst of the problems across the state on voting day. Councilor Mark Wildenhain said the problems were consistent all day, with people waiting five minutes to vote and then two hours or more to get that vote registered by putting it through the machine. In some polling locations, residents ripped up their ballots and left, he said. Police nearly needed to break up a fistfight at the St. Cecilia Church polling place. … Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said in a statement Monday that “the delays experienced in Pawtucket on election day were unacceptable.”
“I look forward to working with the Board of Elections to ensure that any issues are addressed and that elections are fair, fast, and accurate,” she said in a statement.
A spokeswoman said Gorbea was planning to send a full response to the City Council on Tuesday.
Councilor Terry Mercer said he was also upset over the long waits, saying it was “absolutely unacceptable” and an “asinine decision” to have one scanning machine in each city precinct. Leaders have focused so much on voter ID and not disenfranchising people, said Mercer, yet there was “nothing more disenfranchising” than last Tuesday, where many voters were heard muttering under their breath and then walking away.