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Secretary of State Mollis Invites You to Free Exhibit about RI's Feisty Election History

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- For anyone who is still craving a little politics, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis invites you to learn more about Rhode Island’s feisty political past by visiting a free exhibit at the State Archives in downtown Providence.

“Rhode Island Votes: A Lively Look at Election History” features an array of original manuscripts and memorabilia chronicling past elections as well as turning points in the history of voting rights.

“In order to appreciate where we are today, you have to know how far we have come. Our history includes a time when only male landowners were allowed to vote and U.S. Senators were elected by the legislature, not by the voters,” said Mollis.

The exhibit includes documents relating to the Dorr Rebellion and the Women’s Suffrage movement, examples of ballots, election certifications, 19th-century party affiliation voting proxies, campaign buttons, voter guides and photographs.

Three types of early voting machines are display, including a 1930-era Shoup Lever Voting Machine. The free-standing booth with privacy curtain is similar to those used in Rhode Island until the state went to paper ballots and optical scanners in 1998.

The Shoup machine has a panel of levers that that represent the choices available to voters. To cast a vote, the voter simply pulls the lever for the candidate or issue of their choosing. The machine keeps a tally of how many times each lever is pulled.

The exhibit is on display through Jan. 28 at the State Archives, 337 Westminster St., Providence. The facility is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Free parking is available at the In-Town Parking lot across Snow Street from the State Archives.

“I hope exposure to history like this will inspire Rhode Islanders and remind them of the unique treasures the State Archives has to offer,” said Mollis.

In addition to presenting exhibits, the State Archives is also home to tens of thousands of historic documents such as the 1784 law that granted slaves in Rhode Island their freedom and Roger Williams’ handwritten copy of the original 1638 deed buying Providence from the Wampanoag tribe.

Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, helping businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information on “Rhode Island Votes,” call (401) 222–2353 or visit


Media Contact: Chris Barnett at 222-4293 or

Related links

  • Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State
  • Online:
  • Release date: 11-19-2010

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