Voting is the foundation of our democratic system of government. Common Cause Rhode Island has worked for decades to improve administration of our elections and access to the polls. Some of our victories include improvements in public access to our redistricting process, pre-registration of 16 & 17 year-olds, and restoration of voting rights post-release.
In 2013 we identified many of the challenges still facing our system in our report, ‘We have to fix that.’ We set out an ambitious agenda for modernization of our elections in that report, and to date have won many of the needed improvements.
For the first time in recent memory many Rhode Islanders who went to the polls in November 2012 faced significant lines to vote. According to one survey the average Rhode Islander faced a line that was on average three times longer than in 2008. In the last several years a number of legislative changes have been made to restrict access to the polling place including shortening the voting day and expanding the number of voters at many locations. On top of that Rhode Island implemented a voter ID requirement for this first time.
Common Cause set out an ambitious agenda including the purchase of new voting equipment, creation of a system for in-person early voting, improvements to voter registration, and auditing of election outcomes. Almost all of those reforms have been achieved. In 2016 Rhode Island purchased and implemented new voting equipment, including a verifiable paper ballot, at all polling places. Also in 2016 the General Assembly passed legislation for, and the Secretary of State implemented, a system for online voter registration. In 2017 the General Assembly created a system for automatic voter registration, beginning with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Assembly also passed unanimously a requirement for risk-limiting post-election audits, beginning in 2018. All that remains of our ambitious agenda from 2013 is in-person early voting. Common Cause will continue to champion that reform in the upcoming year.