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Secretary of State Mollis' Bill Creating Regional Presidential Primary Signed into Law

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Legislation from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis that moves Rhode Island's 2012 presidential primary from March 6 to April 24 has been signed into law by Governor Chafee.

The change creates a regional primary that will see Rhode Islanders go to the polls on the same day as voters in Pennsylvania as well as New York and Connecticut, which last month also approved legislation moving their 2012 presidential primaries to April 24.

"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 resources in Rhode Island, Mollis hopes that moving the primary to 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. "It's a small thing, but we may even find that moving from winter to spring enables more people to get out and vote."

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.

Mollis asked state Rep. Donald Lally and state Sen. Erin Lynch to introduce the legislation, which also makes two other changes to Rhode Island's 2012 presidential primary calendar.

Candidates now have from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 to file their official Statement of Intent to run in Rhode Island's primary. The dates were Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, 2011.

In addition, candidates now 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 dates were Dec. 8 to Dec. 28, 2010.

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


MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett at 222-4293 or

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  • Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State
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  • Release date: 07-12-2011

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