PROVIDENCE, RI -- Rhode Islanders will get their first taste of the 2012 presidential primary this Thursday when candidates can begin officially filing to run with the Secretary of State's office.
That milestone is among many included in a 32-page guide to Rhode Island's presidential primary that Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis has posted on his website. It spells out the steps that voters and candidates must take leading up to the state's April 24 presidential primary.
"Ensuring our elections are accessible to Rhode Islanders who vote and Rhode Islanders who wish to serve is one of my priorities. Government belongs to the people. The more they know, the better they will be served," said Mollis.
Presidential candidates have from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 to file an official "Statement of Intent" with the Secretary of State in order to be eligible to run in Rhode Island. They then have until Feb. 2 to collect the signatures of at least 1,000 eligible voters in order to qualify to appear on the ballot.
Mollis will add a new page to his website on Friday morning so the public can track the progress that candidates made the previous day.
"You will be able to see who has filed to run and how many signatures they have submitted as well as the number of signatures that have been certified toward the 1,000-signature threshold," he said.
At the same time that Rhode Islanders vote for a presidential candidate, they will elect delegates to the Republican and Democratic political conventions. Rhode Islanders who want to run for delegate must register to vote by Jan. 24.
In order to be eligible to run, candidates for delegate must file an official "Declaration of Candidacy" with the Secretary of State on Feb. 22 or 23. They then have until Feb. 28 to collect the signatures of at least 150 eligible voters in order to qualify to appear on the ballot.
As with the presidential candidates, the public can follow who has filed to run for delegate and the progress they are making achieving the 150-signature threshold on the Secretary of State's website.
Rhode Islanders must register to vote by March 24 in order to cast a ballot in the April 24 presidential primary. April 3 is the deadline to apply for a mail ballot.
In addition to the presidential primary guidebook, the Statement of Intent form for presidential candidates and the Declaration of Candidacy and Pledge of Support forms for delegates are posted on the Secretary of State's website.
"This strategy saves Rhode Islanders the cost of printing thousands of guides and forms and makes it easier for political parties, citizens and candidates to share links with their constituents, friends and supporters," said Mollis.
This will be the first election to take place since the state's new Voter ID law passed. Beginning this year, poll workers will ask voters to show a current and valid ID. A wide range of IDs will be accepted including a R.I. driver's license, college ID, passport and social security card.
"No eligible voter will be turned away at the polls. Anyone who does not bring an ID can vote using a standard provisional ballot. If the signature they give matches the one on their voter registration, their vote will be counted," said Mollis.
Although photo IDs will not be required until 2014, the Secretary of State's office will provide free photo IDs to eligible voters who lack one.
The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 27-30 in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Democrats are scheduled to meet in Charlotte, NC, the week of Sept. 3.
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 state's voter registration database 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 to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT -- Chris Barnett at 222-4293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.