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Rhode Island May Vote on Weekends

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Mollis

Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph A. Mollis, at right in the above photo, yesterday introduced a package of state-level election reform bills that would bring weekend voting to Rhode Islanders, change the way the state’s voter rolls are handled, and change Election Day canvassing rules.

In August, we highlighted the fact that Secretary Mollis was considering weekend voting, and publicized his public hearing to discuss that and other issues.

The complete press release from Secretary Mollis’ office follows.

Mollis Introduces Election Reform Legislation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (April 29, 2008) – Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis has introduced a package of election reform bills that would clean up the state’s voting rolls and pave the way for Rhode Islanders to vote on Saturdays.

“Improving our existing system will make it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote and give them more faith in the fairness of our elections,” said Mollis. The legislation follows a series of public hearings and nationwide research by his Voters First Advisory Commission.

“When I launched Voters First last year, my aim was to bring about comprehensive election reform. Along the way we identified national models to follow and received advice from more than 200 organizations and individuals,” said Mollis.

His 7-point legislative package also includes bills that would strengthen the no-canvassing zone around polling places that is off limits to campaign workers and increase voting booth privacy.

The Saturday-voting bill would give voters a second day to go to the polls in addition to the traditional Tuesday. The legislation would require municipalities to open their polls on the Saturday prior to a Tuesday election. Municipalities would decide how many polling places to open and what hours to be open on Saturdays.

November, Mollis took advantage of a rare Saturday special election in Lincoln to poll voters on their reaction to casting ballots on what for many people is a day off. Ninety-five percent of voters with an opinion on the issue said they liked the opportunity to vote on a Saturday.

Mollis also introduced four bills to clean up the state’s voter rolls. To efficiently purge the names of deceased voters from the state’s poll books, the state Department of Health would be required to transmit death-certificate data to Mollis, who oversees the state’s voter registration database. Mollis would use the data to identify and delete the names of deceased voters from the voting list.

Related legislation would prohibit Rhode Islanders from registering to vote from more than one address, permit municipalities to utilize certified, third-party death notices to update their voter rolls and create a process to ensure that voters who register using a college address are not purged from the roll of active voters after graduating.

The bill regarding no-canvassing zones would expand the 50-foot area in front of polling places that is off-limits to campaign workers or candidates to include handicapped-accessible ramps as well as require municipalities to clearly mark the 50-foot arc with paint or other material. The legislation also would require every polling place to be handicapped accessible entrance.

Mollis has asked the Commission to continue its work on election reform in 2008. Among the outstanding issues are improving voter-registration security and developing a voter identification system to protect against fraud at the polls.

The members of the Voters First Advisory Commission are state Rep. Joe Almeida, state Rep. Jon D. Brien, state Sen. June Gibbs, Roger Harris, RI Disability Vote Project, Robert Kando, executive director, state Board of Elections, Ken McGill of the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers, state Sen. Juan Pichardo, Jan Ruggiero, director of Elections, Office of the Secretary of State, and Susan Stenhouse, deputy director, Governor’s Office of Community Relations.

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 on the programs and services Mollis offers Rhode Islanders, visit www.sec.state.ri.us.

Photo of Secretary Mollis via RI Democrats on Flickr.

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