PROVIDENCE, RI -- This Wednesday, the state House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on legislation from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis that would change Rhode Island's presidential primary calendar in order to ensure that military voters and others living overseas get their ballots faster.
The legislation is in response to the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which requires states to mail ballots to overseas voters at least 45 days prior to an election.
“Rhode Island's servicemen and women protect our right to vote every day. We must do no less for them,” said Mollis. "This bill provides even more insurance that every ballot can be returned in time to be counted."
Sponsored by state Rep. Donald Lally (D-South Kingstown), H 5653 would move up the deadlines for candidates to officially announce their intention to run in Rhode Island's presidential primary and to submit the signatures of the 1,000 eligible voters necessary to get their names on the ballot.
Candidates would have to file their formal declarations of candidacy six days earlier than current law, or from Dec. 1-3, 2011, for the March 6, 2012 primary.
In addition, candidates would have to submit voter signatures 13 days earlier than current law requires, or by Dec. 15. Candidates who get cold feet would have to officially withdraw by January 3 or 20 days earlier than current law in order keep their names from being printed on the ballot.
No change in the date of the primary itself is necessary in order to comply with the MOVE Act.
The Senate already has passed its version of the bill, which is sponsored by state Sen. Erin Lynch (D-Warwick).
The changes are just the Secretary of State's latest response to the MOVE Act. Last November, he rolled out a new voting option for Rhode Islanders who are serving in the military or living overseas – downloading their ballot directly from his website at sos.ri.gov.
“By making it easier for military voters to get their ballots, we make it more likely that they can make their voice heard,” said Mollis.
Accessing the online ballot requires voters to use personal identification information. Once they complete their ballot, voters can return it by fax or mail, just as they have in previous elections.
"Rhode Island has an elegantly simple solution. In fact, we are promoting Rhode Island’s ballot delivery system on our website,” said Bob Cary, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which administers overseas voting for the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
Rhode Islanders who are serving in the military or living overseas already had the option of getting their ballots by mail or fax.
The Secretary of State’s office prepares the ballots for all federal, state and municipal elections held in Rhode Island. In addition, it maintains the statewide voter registration list and distributes handbooks that explain how to run for office, how to register to vote and how to vote.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, helping business grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about elections and voting, visit sos.ri.gov.