The effort to expand early voting in Rhode Island appears headed for an impasse for the fifth year in a row. Advocates for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s proposal, which has stalled in House and Senate committees, say they remain hopeful lawmakers will revisit the measure, but legislative leaders demurred when asked whether it would be considered again. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio told The Associated Press no decision has been made. “We’re looking at early voting. We had the hearings,” he said. “Some people like it. Some people don’t.” Residents can already apply for “emergency mail ballots” at their city or town halls within 20 days of an election. Those ballots proved increasingly popular in 2016.
Articles about voting issues in Rhode Island.
The success of the 2020 census, which will be the first to include an online survey, could hinge on a single “dress rehearsal” underway right now in Rhode Island — and so far, many locals aren’t impressed. Providence County, the state’s most populous, is the only place where the Census Bureau is running a full test, after plans to test two other sites this year were canceled because of a lack of funding from Congress. A planned question about citizenship that has states suing the federal government isn’t on the test. Several elected officials and leaders of advocacy and community groups this week held an “emergency press conference” to raise concerns, which include a shortage of publicity around the test and its limited language outreach in an immigrant-heavy county, with large communities from countries including the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Portugal and Cape Verde.
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.
Rhode Island: Providence County will be only site in nation for 2018 census test | Providence Journal
The U.S. Census Bureau will hire as many as 1,800 census takers and supervisors for a test-run in Rhode Island next year, in preparation for the next big U.S. Census in 2020. Providence County, R.I., will be the one-and-only testing ground in the nation — in 2018 — for the next big U.S. Census in 2020 that will determine, among other things, whether Rhode Island gets to keep its two seats in the House of Representatives. How Rhode Island got chosen as the sole location for this 2018 “end-to-end” census test is not fully clear.
The Rhode Island Board of Elections has started the process of changing one of its rules in response to a complaint filed by a former GOP gubernatorial candidate, Ken Block, who has testified before President Trump’s commission on voting irregularities. Block filed a complaint in September with the U.S. Justice Department, alleging the state was violating a federal voting regulation by failing to collect Social Security or driver’s license numbers from new voters.
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.
Rhode Island: Embattled ex-Board of Elections head Kando files new suit in state court | Providence Journal
Ex-state Board of Elections executive director Robert Kando is once again suing his former employer, this time in state Superior Court. Kando filed suit Monday in Providence County Superior Court, accusing the board of violating his due process rights, the state Whistleblower’s Act and the Open Meetings Act by firing him in August 2016. The filing comes after U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell ruled in the board’s favor in June by refusing to reconsider his dismissal of Kando’s lawsuit challenging his firing from the $143,000-plus position he had held since 2005.
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).”
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.