Elections Task Force has identified ways to improve elections systems in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea today released a report of recommendations (see attached) to improve elections systems in Rhode Island. The report is the result of an Elections Task Force she convened to review the administration of elections across the state in 2016.
The Elections Task Force, made up of state and local elections officials along with Rhode Island voters, met three times and heard from national experts on best practices in elections administration as well as citizens concerned with Election Day operations.
"2016 was quite an election year with the administration of three statewide elections and the implementation of new technology like online voter registration, new voting equipment and an electronic poll book pilot program," Secretary Gorbea said. "Any time you implement something new, it's good to debrief and discuss what worked and what didn't go as planned. As the state's Chief Elections Official, I convened this task force to do just that."
Among the recommendations discussed were legislative initiatives such as In-Person Early Voting, Automatic Voter Registration, Post-election Audits, and clarifying the number of voting machines that the Board of Elections can allocate at each polling place. These initiatives are currently under review at the General Assembly.
In-Person Early voting would eliminate the state's current "emergency mail ballot" process and instead implement the same process voters use at a polling place. If passed, voters could go to a place designated by their city or town, show their ID, and fill out and cast their ballot into a voting machine right then and there.
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is gaining bi-partisan popularity across the country as an effective way to clean up voter rolls. AVR would improve the efficiency of the voter registration process, beginning at the DMV, by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote unless they choose not to register and "opt-out" of the process. This means when someone updates their address at the DMV, they will also update their voter registration information. This will help eliminate the bloat in our voter rolls that occur from unintentional, duplicate voter registrations.
Other recommendations called for fully implementing the very popular electronic-poll books across the state and using best practices identified in the private sector to reduce wait times and improve field operations on Election Day.
"We must always strive to do better for voters because the single act of casting a ballot is fundamental to our democracy and fundamental to making government accountable to the people it serves," Secretary Gorbea said. "The task force is a great example of different government entities coming together to address problems and implement solutions so that voters can trust the integrity of every vote."
Members of the Elections Task Force are: Diane Mederos, Vice Chairwoman, Board of Elections; William West and Dr. Isadore Ramos, Commissioners, Board of Elections; Louis Cirillo, Town Clerk, Bristol; Louise Phaneuf Town Clerk, Burrillville; Sonia Grace, City Clerk, Central Falls; Cheryl Fernstrom, Town Clerk and Karen Montoya Deputy Town Clerk, Jamestown; Kenneth McGill, City Registrar, Pawtucket; Renay Brooks Omisore, Board of Canvassers, Providence; Patty Aylesworth, Director of Elections and Dottie McCarthy, Board of Canvassers, Warwick; Michele Murphy, Board of Canvassers and Cathy Brayman, Deputy Town Clerk, Westerly; Sheri Sweitzer and Pilar McCloud, Rhode Island voters.