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Editorial & Opinion

Lenny Cioe: Ruggerio making voting ‘difficult and dangerous so he can stay in power’



“So how do we combat Ruggerio’s blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters and rig this election?

“We vote.”

Last week, Senate president Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) and other senate leaders blocked a bill to send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in Rhode Island. The bill would have also removed the antiquated and unnecessary requirement that mail-in voters have their ballots signed by two witnesses. It passed the House and has the support of more than fifteen groups across Rhode Island advocating for voting access. So why didn’t the senate take it up? If given the opportunity to increase voter turnout and make our elections safe during a global pandemic, why would they refuse?

It’s obvious: Ruggerio is scared of losing his seat. More people voting means more people voting for me. He’s willing to make voting difficult and dangerous so he can stay in power.

And that is exactly how change is stifled. I don’t just mean change in leadership; I mean all the change that true civic leaders like myself could make in our state if given the opportunity. I want to rebuild Rhode Island by establishing a liveable wage for workers and creating a fair tax system for small businesses. I want to develop a better healthcare system, guarantee stable housing, and secure more funding for public education. I want to take bold action against climate change that creates jobs and protects the future of our state.

But none of these things can happen without a change in leadership, and that can’t happen if people are unable to vote.

Voting is the foundation of our democracy. John Lewis, a civil rights activist and hero, fought for voting rights throughout his life. He passed away on Friday, the same day that Ruggerio refused to vote on this voting access bill. The same day that Ruggerio decided it was better to have fewer people vote and maintain his senate seat than to give Rhode Islanders a voice. The same day that Ruggerio decided it was better for voters to go to the polls and risk getting or spreading COVID-19 than to mail-in voting easy and accessible.

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So how do we combat Ruggerio’s blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters and rig this election?

We vote.

It may not be as easy as it should be, but it’s still possible. If you’d like to vote from home (the safest option), type out this URL to complete an application for a mail-in ballot. And if you need witnesses present at the completion of your mail-in ballot, volunteers from my campaign can come to your home and maintain a safe distance from you while you vote. Email me at to arrange a time to do so. We are also organizing notaries to sign ballots in central locations closer to the election, so stay tuned for announcements about where you can safely vote with a notary present.

As a registered nurse, and simply as a Rhode Islander, I am infuriated by Ruggerio’s willingness to spread COVID-19 through our communities for the sake of staying in the senate. District 4 needs a senator who will prioritize his constituents, not himself. If we all still vote despite these obstacles, I can be that senator.