“Early in person voting passed as a law, and not just or the pandemic, here, it passed for good… with regard to mail ballots, we’ll have to see what the appetite is at the General Assembly to make changes because a lot of the adjustments that have been made with mail ballots was done through executive order.“
During a press conference on Friday morning in the Rhode Island State House Library, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Board of Elections member Jennie Johnson made several announcements regarding the November 3 general election in Rhode Island.
Secretary Gorbea announced that her office will send all active registered voters a mail ballot application for the November 3 general election. “Active” status means a voter is registered and has not had a piece of official elections mail returned as undeliverable. It does not reflect the frequency of voting.
“Making it easy for Rhode Islanders to vote safely and securely from home will ensure that voters aren’t forced to choose between their health and their constitutional right to vote,” said Secretary Gorbea.
Mail ballot applications for the November 3 general election will begin arriving in mailboxes this weekend and continue through next week to ensure that voters who choose to vote from home have time to return their applications and receive their mail ballots.
John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island, who was not at the press conference, supported the decision in a statement. “Many Rhode Island voters have demonstrated they prefer to vote safely by mail during the current pandemic,” said Marion. “Sending mail ballot applications to eligible voters is a common-sense step that will allow more voters that option for November.”
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UpriseRI asked if this is the new normal for elections in Rhode Island going forward.
“I think the pandemic has changed our lives in ways that certainly are going to continue to evolve and move us forward,” said Secretary Gorbea. “Early in person voting passed as a law, and not just or the pandemic, here, it passed for good… with regard to mail ballots, we’ll have to see what the appetite is at the General Assembly to make changes because a lot of the adjustments that have been made with mail ballots was done through executive order.”
Secretary Gorbea also announced that Governor Gina Raimondo has authorized the Rhode Island National Guard to assist in processing what is expected to be a record number of mail ballot applications for the November 3 general election. The National Guard’s role in this process is purely clerical. No members of the National Guard will handle actual mail ballots, and they will not make any decisions that determine whether a voter receives a mail ballot.
Board of Elections member Jennie Johnson announced that the Board has arranged for secure mail ballot drop boxes to be placed in every community in Rhode Island. She also reminded Rhode Island voters that this year, they have the new option of voting early in-person with an emergency ballot. Lastly, she outlined efforts to sanitize polling places and recruit poll workers for the November 3 general election.
The deadline to register to vote in the November 3 general election is Sunday, October 4. The deadline to submit a mail ballot application is Tuesday, October 13. The early in-person voting period begins on October 14. Voters are encouraged to check and update their registration on vote.ri.gov. Voters can also track the status of their mail ballot application and their mail ballot at vote.ri.gov.
New this year, voters can also call 2-1-1 with any election questions. This free service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in over 200 languages thanks to a partnership between Secretary Gorbea’s office and United Way of Rhode Island.