NARRAGANSETT – COVID-19 has changed nearly all aspects of life this year, voting among them. The Town of Narragansett recently announced that it would be consolidating voting districts and polling places for the 2020 Primary Election, limiting voting locations to the North Beach Clubhouse, the community center and the Narragansett Pier School (NPS) for the Sept. 8 election.
“Based upon the Presidential Preference Primary in June in the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions, the RI Board of Elections recognized that the local Boards of Canvassers would likely have difficulty recruiting the necessary number of poll workers needed to run all the usual polling locations for the Primary Election on Sept. 8,” said Teresa Donovan, Narragansett Town Clerk. “There was a general suggestion to all local boards to consolidate polling places, in accordance with the law, wherever possible. Concurrently, the RI Secretary of State encouraged voters to consider alternatives to in-person voting, if that made sense for them. Another consideration was that primary elections historically have a low turnout.”
Accordingly, voters in District 1 will vote at the North Beach Clubhouse, while Districts 2 and 3 will vote at the Narragansett Community Center. Finally, Districts 4 and 5 will vote at NPS.
The town worked in coordination with the state to make the consolidations as logical and practical as possible, and also had to plan around current COVID-19 restrictions, according to Donovan.
“Miguel J. Nunez, Deputy Director of Elections and Steve Taylor, Special Projects Coordinator for the RI Board of Elections, worked with us to keep the precincts with the same Senatorial district and same House Representative district together, while being mindful of the potential maximum number of voters that would be eligible to vote at those combined locations,” she said.
As such, District 1 is in Senate District 35 and House Representative District 33. Districts 2 and 3 are in Senate District 36 and House Representative District 33 and Districts 4 and 5 are in Senate District 35 and House Representative District 34.
“Additionally, the local board needed to ascertain which ‘usual’ polling locations would still be available for public use, considering any limitations that had been implemented since the last time they were used,” said Donovan. “Adequate parking, sufficient controls of pedestrian flow to accommodate social distancing and continuous sanitization procedures were some of the considerations.”
Voters who feel uncomfortable voting in person come Sept. 8 have an alternative available to them. Voters can vote by mail by submitting an application at the local Board of Canvassers by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18. Application forms are in the free-standing kiosk in front of Town Hall and can also be obtained online at www.vote.sos.ri.gov. Alternatively, voters can contact the local board to have an application mailed to them at 401-782-0625 or email@example.com. Completed application forms can be mailed (if time allows), deposited into the lock box in front of town hall, or submitted in person during business hours. Completed applications cannot be faxed or emailed. The application deadline is Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. – no exceptions. The ballot itself will then be mailed to the voter’s specified address. The voter will then cast their ballot and seal it in the provided envelope. The envelope can be mailed or hand-delivered to Town Hall or the RI Board of Elections. No ballot will be accepted after 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Also, beginning Tuesday, Aug. 19, voters can cast their ballots at Narragansett Town Hall during normal business hours (Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.).
The aforementioned polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. for in-person voting on Sept. 8.