With no one actually disputing the possibility that Rhode Island has for close to a decade violated a federal law requiring a driver’s license or Social Security number from people registering to vote for the first time, a battle of wills broke out Wednesday night at the state Board of Elections. The battle pitted elections board member Stephen Erickson, a one-time state lawmaker and retired District Court judge, against 2014 Republican candidate for governor Ken Block, who did a recent — and highly controversial — voter analysis for a nonprofit co-founded by President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Before a live audience at the election board’s Branch Avenue headquarters, Erickson and Block essentially acted out their running Twitter dispute over the complaint that Block filed with the U.S. Department of Justice late last month alleging violations by Rhode Island of the “Help America Vote Act (HAVA).”
Articles about voting issues in Rhode Island.
Two-time gubernatorial candidate Ken Block alleges there is a “gigantic” loophole in Rhode Island’s voter-ID law for people who vote by mail ballot. The allegation is the latest in a series since Block was hired by a nonprofit — co-founded by President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon — to use his computer skills to data-mine for potential electoral abuses, including straight-out voter fraud. He recently made a formal request for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. On Monday, he alleged a new issue: the potential for people voting by mail ballot to escape Rhode Island’s voter ID requirements. “The use of mail ballots in Rhode Island’s elections has exploded, with the 2016 general election seeing a doubling of mail ballot usage compared to recent previous elections. The use of mail ballots was marketed as ‘early voting’ by some officials,″ he noted.
The General Assembly has approved a bill to establish post-election audits to ensure that equipment and procedures used to count votes are working properly. “This will go a long way toward ensuring public confidence in election results,” said Sen. James C. Sheehan, D-North Kingstown, who introduced the legislation at the urging of Common Cause. “Without the constant scrutiny and examination of election procedures, the democratic system could be called into doubt.” The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence. The audit would be a partial recount to verify the accuracy of the voting system.
Rhode Island: House OKs bill to empower Board of Elections to conduct post election audits | Providence Journal
A bill that would give the board of elections power to perform “post-election risk-limiting” audits aimed at improving the accuracy of election results passed the House. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Edith Ajello D-Providence, will allow the Board to create a board in 2018 that would conduct audits of statewide primaries, general, and special elections. In 2020 the board would also analyze the results of the presidential race. It passed unanimously, and awaits action by the Senate.
Amid national news reports about potential election-hacking by Russia — and a machine ballot miscount in North Kingstown last year — state lawmakers have added audits of vote tallies to their special-session agenda. At a rare Friday afternoon meeting in September, the House Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to vote on a criminal-sentencing overhaul that stalled out in the 2016 legislative session, and then got caught up in end-of-session chaos this past June. … That was expected. But the committee will also likely approve — and send along to the full House for action at Tuesday’s special session — a bill requiring post-election audits to make sure that the state’s voting machines — which are actually optical scanners — got the winners and losers right. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. James Sheehan. But that bill — and a matching House version with Republican and Democrat-sponsors — had not made it all the way when the regular session ended abruptly in June.
Rhode Island is making national news by becoming the ninth state to pass an Automatic Voter Registration bill, which automatically registers eligible citizens to vote when interacting with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has long championed AVR, saying it will clean up voter rolls and boost registration among previously underrepresented groups. “I made a point of saying that we would have elections that are fair, fast and accurate,” Gorbea said at a press conference Tuesday at the State House. She continued, “Of course, having a clean voter list is critical to preserving the integrity of elections.”
They are all Democrats. But not all of the Democrats in Rhode Island’s highest elected offices had the same luck getting their legislation through the overwhelmingly Democratic-controlled General Assembly. In the year before the 2018 elections, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea scored a big one. Her push for early, in-person voting did not succeed, but the Assembly approved — and the governor signed — her bid for automatic registration of all potentially eligible voters who do business at the Department of Motor Vehicles, unless they decline to be registered.
In the near future, when you renew your driver’s license at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles, you can also register to vote. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea answered our questions about automatic voter registration becoming law — signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo this week — which will allow people doing business at the Division of Motor Vehicles to also register to vote. “I pushed for it because it is a great way for Rhode Islanders when they update their addresses with the government that that address change is made across the board into their voter file,” Gorbea said Friday during a taping of “10 News Conference.”
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has signed legislation that makes Rhode Island the ninth state to allow automatic-voter-registration. The legislation championed by Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea would automatically place on the voter rolls anyone doing business with the Division of Motor Vehicles, and potentially other state offices, unless they decline. If the new system works as designed, it will update the central voter registration database, as voters change their home city and town addresses on the drivers licenses and registration, removing the potential “duplicates” from the voter rolls.
Robert Kando, the former executive director of the state Board of Elections, is asking a federal judge to reconsider the dismissal of a lawsuit that accuses the board of violating his rights by firing him last year. Kando filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. to reverse his dismissal of a lawsuit that challenged Kando’s August firing from the $143,000-plus position he had held since 2005. Kando argued through his lawyer Richard Sinapi that McConnell misconstrued the law in ruling that Kando didn’t have a right to a “name clearing” hearing because he had been categorized as an unclassified employee, who served at the pleasure of the board as his appointing authority. He faulted the judge, too, for failing to view the facts in his favor, particularly as to his arguments that he had been denied proper notice and an opportunity to be heard.