Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says it’s time for Rhode Island to allow early in-person voting. The Democrat is proposing to allow people to vote during normal business hours for a 20-day period before primary and general elections, and on the weekend prior to each election. It’s one of a handful of election-related bills submitted at Gorbea’s request. She is also proposing moving the state primary to August instead of September. Most states allow qualified voters to cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. In Rhode Island, some people vote early and in-person now by going to their town halls and applying for an emergency mail ballot, which is a paperwork intensive process, Gorbea said.
Gorbea said her proposed changes would help busy voters and eliminate the need for many of the emergency mail ballots. “I’ve made it a priority to increase access to the ballot box while ensuring the integrity of every vote,” she said in an interview. “That’s my overall vision.”
Bills to allow early in-person voting have stalled in previous legislative sessions. Town officials, including clerks, worried about the logistics, especially if a polling place had to be open on the weekend.
Gorbea included one weekend of voting in this year’s bill, instead of multiple. She said electronic poll books being sent to every polling location this year to replace paper books will make the process easier.