Rhode Island Senate approves early voting bill, online mail ballot applications | Katherine Gregg/The Providence Journal
Despite strong pushback from legislative Republicans — and the state GOP — the Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to make it easier to vote almost three weeks early and in absentia. The mostly party-line vote was 28 to 6, with House Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin calling it a “great day for democracy” and Republican Sen. Elaine Morgan calling the legislation a “travesty” of democracy. (The only Democrat who broke ranks was Sen. Roger Picard.) Most basically, the legislation allows voters to cast ballots 20 days ahead of an election, and to apply for absentee ballots — also known as mail ballots — online, using a driver’s license or state identification card number as their ID. It eliminates the required confirmation of two witnesses or a notary to the signing of a mail ballot. It also calls for the creation of a permanent list of nursing home residents — and others who are disabled “for an indefinite period” — to whom mail ballot applications would be sent automatically in every election. This would stop only if a local elections clerk received “reliable information that a voter no longer qualifies for the service” for whatever reason, including death.