Common Cause calls for immediate improvements to voting in Rhode Island

Tuesday’s election demonstrated need for expedited modernization of our elections

Providence, RI, April 27, 2016 – Yesterday more than 180,000 Rhode Islanders cast ballots in our Presidential Preference Primary (PPP). “Too many eligible voters showed up at the wrong polling place, or waited an unnecessary amount of time to cast their ballot,” according to John Marion, executive director of Common Cause. “While we have been working to modernize our election in Rhode Island, yesterday tells us that we need to speed up that process.”

Common Cause calls on the General Assembly to pass H 7248 and S 2358 to create a system of early voting that includes weekends. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommended states adopt early voting in order to relieve stress on polling places on election day, and to help forecast areas of high turnout.

The upcoming budget should include an appropriation for the purchase of electronic poll books, as Governor Raimondo recommended in her budget proposal. This technology will speed the processing of voters at the polling place, reducing lines for voters. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has completed a request for information process and is ready to make the purchase prior to our next statewide election.

Governor Raimondo should move quickly to fill the recent vacancy on the state Board of Elections. Yesterday the Board met with barely enough members to perform their official functions. “Rhode Islanders deserve a functioning Board of Elections, and Governor Raimondo can make that happen with a strong and timely appointment,” says John Marion. Had an additional member of the Board been absent mail ballot results would not have been available and Rhode Island would have been a national embarrassment.

Finally, the General Assembly should enact a limit of 6,000 registered voters per polling location. Currently election administrators are allowed unlimited discretion in setting the number of polling places for Presidential Preference Primaries. This compares to a statutory cap 3,000 registered voters per polling location for in regular elections. We need a similar cap on the number of voters for the PPP to help prevent voters from having to travel significant distances to their polling places.

Swift action by our leaders will ensure that all eligible Rhode Islanders will not be unduly burdened as they exercise their right to vote.


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