PROVIDENCE, RI – This week, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea began sending all registered Rhode Island voters a mail ballot application for the upcoming June 2 presidential primary. This process will have two major benefits for Rhode Island. First, it ensures that eligible voters can cast their ballot in a safe and secure manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. And second, it will help clean the state's voter rolls.
The process for removing a voter is dictated by strict federal and state laws. One of the key requirements is that specific communities may not be targeted for removal. Due to budget constraints, this is the first statewide elections mailing in Rhode Island since 2006. This mailing is being paid for with federal funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once a piece of elections mail is returned as undeliverable, a voter is marked inactive. A voter who is marked as inactive is still eligible to vote, but if they do not cast a ballot in one of the next two federal elections (four years), they may be legally removed from the rolls. Rhode Island currently has more than 60,000 records marked as inactive.
"I'm calling on all Rhode Islanders who receive a mail ballot application for someone who no longer lives at that address to return the application to my office as undeliverable," said Secretary Gorbea. "This allows us to start the 4-year process, under federal law, of legally removing that person from the voter rolls. Your participation is a critical part in helping us maintain accurate voter lists and protecting the integrity of every vote."
List maintenance of voter rolls has been a focus of Secretary Gorbea's administration. Historically, many voters have neglected to inform election officials when they move.
"Rhode Island has been a national leader in maintaining accurate voting lists," said David Becker, Executive Director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research. "Secretary Gorbea joined the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) several years ago, which has grown to thirty states and helps identify voters who have moved so their records can be updated with the correct address. Members of ERIC, including Rhode Island, benefit from some of the most accurate voter lists in the country."
Since taking office in 2015, Secretary Gorbea's efforts have led to the lawful removal of more than 130,000 outdated registrations from Rhode Island's voter rolls. As a reminder, all Rhode Islanders are encouraged to check and update their voter information online at vote.ri.gov or visit their local board of canvassers.