PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has put
forth a legislative agenda that continues her nationally-recognized work to
improve access to the ballot box and modernize elections in Rhode Island.
First, Secretary Gorbea will once again introduce early
in-person voting legislation in the General Assembly.
“The number voters who used either a mail or emergency mail
ballot has increased dramatically over the past two election cycles,” Secretary
Gorbea said. “These numbers show that Rhode Islanders want more options for
voting than just on Election Day. This is a trend seen across the country. The
time has come to provide early in-person voting to Rhode Islanders.”
During the 2018 mid-term election, the number of emergency mail
ballots submitted to the Board of Elections saw an increase of 119 percent over
the previous mid-term in 2014. Traditional mail ballots also saw an increase of
47 percent during that same period.
Early in-person voting would allow for voting on the Saturday
and Sunday before Election Day and would implement the same process voters use
at a polling place rather than the cumbersome mail ballot process used today.
Just like Election Day, voters would scan their ID and then sign their ballot
application using an electronic poll book. They would then mark and immediately
cast their ballot into a voting machine.
In addition to early in-person voting legislation, Secretary
Gorbea is looking to move Rhode Island’s primary election to the third Tuesday
after the first Monday in August.
Military and overseas voters will have very little time to
receive and return their ballots for the November 2020 election. In fact, based
on the 2020 election calendar, the time between the state primary and general
election is so short that Rhode Island will violate federal law by not getting
military and overseas ballots out 45-days in advance of the general
With Secretary Gorbea’s proposed legislation, Rhode Island would
have more time to prepare ballots following the state primary and join
Connecticut, Vermont, and 12 other states in holding their state primary in
“It is most alarming to me that the opportunity to exercise the
right to vote is at risk for the very men and women who are deployed overseas
defending our nation’s democracy,” Secretary Gorbea said. “We must change the
elections calendar to ensure our military men and women can all vote.”
Lastly, Secretary Gorbea will introduce a set of bills aimed at
updating elections administration. This includes legislation that will allow
voters who are registered as “unaffiliated” to remain unaffiliated after voting
in a primary without having to fill out a disaffiliation form and legislation
that clarifies what voter information is included in the public voter
Responding to privacy concerns from constituents, Secretary
Gorbea made the decision in 2017 to only provide year of birth in the
aggregated data export of the voter file. Her proposed legislation will update
the law to reflect current practice and remove language that has previously
been ruled unconstitutional by the courts.