Back in February Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea proposed a set of bills “to improve access to the ballot box and modernize elections in Rhode Island.” Today, as the legislative session nears its end, all four of the Secretary’s bills are in danger not making it to the Governor’s desk…
In-person Early Voting
Early, in-person voting would allow for voting on the Saturday and Sunday before Election Day and would implement the same process voters use at a polling place rather than the cumbersome mail ballot process used today. Just like Election Day, voters would scan their ID and then sign their ballot application using an electronic poll book. They would then mark and immediately cast their ballot into a voting machine.
“The number of voters who used either a mail or emergency mail ballot has increased dramatically over the past two election cycles,” said Gorbea in her press release. “These numbers show that Rhode Islanders want more options for voting than just on Election Day. This is a trend seen across the country. The time has come to provide early in-person voting to Rhode Islanders.”
Introduced by Representative Joseph Solomon Jr (Democrat, District 22, Warwick) and Senator Erin Lynch Prata (Democrat, District 31, Warwick, Cranston) both bills (H5292 and S0631) are languishing in their respective Judiciary Committees, held for further study. This bill has been studied now for five years.
Primary Date Change
A bill to bring Rhode Island into compliance with Federal Law and allow military and overseas voters the time they need to participate in the November 2010 election has stalled in the Senate, but a modified version of the House bill, H5764a, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House bill was shuttled through by Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket) and the Senate bill, S0600, was forwarded by Senator Leonidas Raptakis (Democrat, District 33, East Greenwich).
“It is most alarming to me that the opportunity to exercise the right to vote is at risk for the very men and women who are deployed overseas defending our nation’s democracy,” said Gorbea. “We must change the elections calendar to ensure our military men and women can all vote.”
Improving and Clarifying the Disaffiliation Process
Bills (H5715 and S0589) to allow voters who are registered as “unaffiliated” to remain unaffiliated after voting in a primary without having to fill out a disaffiliation form were submitted by Representative Alzate and Senator Mark McKenney (Democrat, District 30, Warwick). The House bill was held for study in Judiciary and the Senate bill is being heard this evening in Senate Judiciary.
Public Voter File
H5925, introduced by Representative June Speakman (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren) and S0588, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Crowley (Democrat, District 16, Central Falls) “clarifies what voter information is included in the public voter file. Responding to privacy concerns from constituents, Secretary Gorbea made the decision in 2017 to only provide year of birth in the aggregated data export of the voter file. Her proposed legislation will update the law to reflect current practice and remove language that has previously been ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
Senate Judiciary considers the bill this evening, the House version will be amended to mirror the language in H5764a.
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