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Secretary of State Mollis' Bill to Create Regional Presidential Primary Passed by Legislature

PROVIDENCE, RI -- The General Assembly passes legislation from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis that would move Rhode Island's 2012 presidential primary from March 6 to April 24. The bill now goes to Gov. Chafee for consideration.

The change would create a regional primary that would see Rhode Islanders go to the polls on the same day as voters in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.

"I've been calling for a national system of regional primaries since I first took office. They can make small states like ours more relevant," said Mollis. "Candidates are much more likely to stop here if they can combine it with a swing through Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut."

In addition to making it more likely that campaigns will invest time in Rhode Island, Mollis contends that moving the primary later in the year may also increase turnout.

"By April 24, the field likely will be whittled down to a few finalists. If we learned anything from the record turnout in 2008, it is that Rhode Islanders like having a real say in who the ultimate presidential candidates will be," said Mollis.

"A spring primary also enables us to move key dates in the calendar like filing official declarations of candidacy and collecting voter signatures from the hectic December holidays to January, when it will be easier for voters to focus on the issues," said Mollis.

Creating a regional primary may have economic benefits, too.

"We need to do everything we can to help Rhode Island businesses. Our hope is that this will trigger a spurt of campaign spending here on everything from advertising to catering," said Mollis.

Rhode Island's presidential primary has been held in March since 1984.

When it became clear that New York and Connecticut were moving their primaries to join Pennsylvania on April 24, Mollis quickly amended an existing bill that was already making technical changes to the presidential primary calendar.

"We had already submitted legislation to change a few dates in the presidential primary calendar to make it easier for Rhode Islanders serving in the military or working overseas to vote. So we had a mechanism at our fingertips to to be able to capitalize on this opportunity," said Mollis.

State Rep. Donald Lally and state Sen. Erin Lynch introduced the original legislation, which made changes to the calendar in order to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

Under the proposed April 24 calendar, candidates would have from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 to file their official Statement of Intent to run in Rhode Island's primary. The current dates are Dec. 7 to Dec. 9.

In addition, candidates would have from Jan. 19 to Feb. 2 to collect the signatures of 1,000 eligible voters that are necessary to get their names on the ballot here. The current dates are Dec. 8 to Dec. 28.

The Secretary of State’s office prepares the ballots for all federal, state and municipal elections held in Rhode Island. In addition, the office 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 businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about elections and voting, visit sos.ri.gov.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett - 222-4293

Related links

Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State

Online: http://www.sos.ri.gov/

Release date: 06-28-2011

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