PROVIDENCE, RI – Fifteen Rhode Island political and civic leaders joined Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea for a roundtable discussion on elections integrity this morning in the State House library. The diverse group discussed voting equipment security safeguards, the integrity of the state's central voter registration database, and ways in which Rhode Islanders can report any concerns they have while at the polls.
"As Rhode Island's Chief Elections Official, I am committed to making sure our elections are fair, fast and accurate. That includes ensuring that our voting systems are secure so that voters can trust the integrity of every vote," Secretary Gorbea said. "The recent national discourse and media coverage on cyberattacks or other fraudulent activities has the potential to undermine Rhode Islanders trust in the election system. That's why I have convened this roundtable and invited you all here to discuss the integrity of Rhode Island's elections."
The discussion included an overview of the security measures in place on the state's new voting equipment. Steve Pearson, Vice President of Voting Systems at Election Systems & Software reviewed the security protocol for the new DS200 ballot tabulators, which will be in every polling location around the state on Election Day. The new paper ballot-based machines have multiple redundancies that ensure the security and integrity of every vote. Scott Leiendecker the CEO of KnowInk also presented on the security in place for the Electronic Poll Book pilot program the state will roll out in 57 polling locations.
Secretary Gorbea then addressed the state's Central Voter Registration System (CVRS), a centralized database where local boards of canvassers maintain voter rolls, and concerns that the voter rolls are not accurate. She presented how data from U.S. Census estimates vary for Rhode Island's "voter registration rate" making it very difficult to pinpoint the exact excess in Rhode Island's CVRS.
"The numbers recently reported in the media are estimates that are open for interpretation because they are, in turn, based on estimates," Secretary Gorbea said. "These variations demonstrate to how difficult it is to offer an accurate projection of how many registered voters there should be in the state."
Secretary Gorbea detailed the multi-year process for removing individuals from the voter rolls, which is dictated by the Federal Voting Rights Act. The result? Progress in making the voter rolls more accurate. Since January 2015, nearly 32,000 individuals have been appropriately removed from Rhode Island's voter rolls. An additional 54,192 are marked inactive in the system, effectively beginning the process to remove them from the voter rolls.
Finally, the discussion concluded with the State Board of Elections and civic advocacy groups sharing information on polling place procedures and voter rights.
"Election Day is a community endeavor with multiple levels of stakeholders, as evident through the participation in the roundtable discussion today," Secretary Gorbea said. "It's this community involvement that offers a level of transparency to the process that makes voter fraud difficult. I want to be sure that all eligible Rhode Islanders understand that their civic participation is critical to our success as a state."
Among those present were Roger Williams University School of Law Dean Michael Yelnosky, RI Board of Elections commissioner Dr. Isadore Ramos and acting executive director Robert Rapoza, Jan Ruggiero of the North Providence Board of Canvassers, Pilar McCloud of the NAACP Providence, John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island, Tomas Avila of the RI Latino Civic Fund, Steve Brown of the RI ACLU and Jane Koster of the RI League of Women Voters. The state's political parties were represented by: Brandon Bell of the RI Republican Party, Joseph McNamara of the RI Democratic Party, Gregg Gerritt of the Green Party of RI and Pat Ford of the RI Libertarian Party. Also on hand were Steve Pearson, VP of Voting Systems at ES&S, manufacturer of the state's voting machines, and Scott Leiendecker, President of KnowInk, e-poll book vendor.