PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Islanders won't cast ballots for about three months, but voters face a crucial deadline this week, according to Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.
Voters who are registered as Americans Elect, Democrats, Moderates or Republicans must disaffiliate by June 13 if they plan on voting in a different party's primary in September. Voters can change their party affiliation by contacting the board of canvassers in the city or town where they are registered to vote.
Some of the key races where primaries appear to be likely include both of Rhode Island's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. More than 700,000 Rhode Islanders are registered to vote.
"About half of the state's voters are affiliated with one of the state's recognized political parties. This is their last chance to make a change," said Mollis. "Independent voters do not have to worry about the deadline. They can cast a ballot in any party's primary."
Mollis urges voters who are unsure of their political affiliation to use his website to check their voter registration record.
The disaffiliation deadline is just one of the milestones that is included in a free 24-page guide Mollis created to help voters and candidates navigate this year's elections. "Election Calendar 2012" outlines every crucial step from registering to vote to filing campaign finance reports leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
"This strategy not only saves Rhode Islanders the cost of printing thousands of copies of the guide, it also makes it easy for them to share links to the guide with friends and family," said Mollis.
The guide also includes information about the state's new Voter ID law. Beginning this year, voters will be asked to show an ID when they vote at the polls. Poll workers will accept a wide range of common IDs including a R.I. driver's license, RIPTA bus pass, college ID and Social Security card.
"The public's confidence in the integrity of our elections is diminished by the belief that identity theft occurs at the polls. Renting a car or getting a library card require ID. The right to vote deserves at least as much protection," said Mollis.
The Secretary of State's office will provide free IDs to voters who do not already have an acceptable photo ID. In order to obtain an ID, voters must bring proof of identity such as a Social Security card, credit or debit card, utility bill or government-issued document. The ID, which includes a color photo of the voter and the voter's full name, will be created on the spot.
Voter ID will be phased in over two election cycles. In 2012 and 2013, voters can also use a variety of non-photo IDs including a Social Security card, bank statement or any government-issued medical card. Beginning in 2014, only photo IDs will be accepted.
"Photo ID ensures that poll workers can match a face to the name that voters give them when they obtain their ballots at the polls. The simple act of asking for ID protects the rights of every voter," said Mollis.
Most importantly, no eligible voter will be denied the right to vote. Voters who do not bring an acceptable ID to the polls can vote using a standard Provisional Ballot. If the signature they give at their polling place matches the signature on their voter registration, their ballot will be counted.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.