PROVIDENCE – Thursday, an elections task force consisting of state and local elections officials and members of the public released a series of recommendations to ensure that Rhode Island voters can cast their ballots in a safe and secure manner this fall.
Co-chaired by Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea and Board of Elections Chairwoman Diane C. Mederos, the Elections 2020 Task Force discussed potential solutions for several challenges facing elections officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our job as election officials is to ensure that Rhode Islanders can express their constitutional right to vote during this pandemic,” said Secretary Gorbea. “In order to do this, I am reaching out to the General Assembly and Governor Gina Raimondo with actions we need to take so that Rhode Islanders are able to vote and stay healthy in one the most important elections of our lifetimes.”
“The Board of Elections is working on a thoughtful and proactive strategy to ensure that voters in the September Primary and the November General Election are safe and feel confident in the security of their vote,” said Chairwoman Mederos. “With representatives of many different government entities, public interest groups and citizens at large participating in the Elections 2020 Task Force, a variety of points of view have been brought to light which should be considered when planning for the upcoming elections. Cooperation is essential and I believe we are all in agreement that we need to work together for the best result.”
The Elections 2020 Task Force held discussions during two public meetings with public comment periods, resulting in Thursday’s proposals. Both meetings can be viewed in their entirety on the Rhode Island Department of State’s Facebook page.
Recommendations from the task force for the 2020 election cycle in Rhode Island include:
- Centralizing the processing of mail ballot applications
- Sending all active registered voters a mail ballot application for the November 3 General Election with postage pre-paid envelopes
- Sending all active voters a post card outlining voting options for the September 8 Primary Election
- Eliminating the witness or notary requirement for mail ballots
- Implementing 20 days of early in-person voting
- Purchasing secure mail ballot drop boxes for all communities
- Allowing mail ballots post marked by Election Day to be accepted
- Improving access to mail ballots for voters with disabilities
- Consolidating polling places
- Expanding poll worker recruitment
- Implementing signature verification equipment at the Board of Elections
- Improving voter education materials
Elections officials from the Department of State, Board of Elections and local boards of canvassers will now focus on implementing changes that fall under their purview. Several recommendations would require action at the legislative or executive level.