The legislation was prompted by reports that officials at least one Providence polling place scrambled to get voters standing in line outside into the building before the doors closed at 8 p.m. Under previous law, only voters who were inside their polling place at closing time were guaranteed the right to cast a ballot.
Last November, a perfect storm of events resulted in long lines at some polling places. Although we will probably never see lines stretching outdoors again, we wanted the law to be clear that every vote must be counted, said Mollis.
Mollis asked state Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence) and state Sen. James Sheehan (D-Narragansett, North Kingstown) to introduce the legislation, which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Providence) and state Senators Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket, North Providence), Harold Metts (D-Providence), Susan Sosnowski (D-North Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Central Falls, Pawtucket).
Anyone who is willing to wait outside to do their civic duty should not be turned away. This bill would make sure that every registered voter who wants to vote gets to vote, said Ajello.
This is a straightforward way to make sure our elections are open to every registered voter who shows up on time, said Sheehan.
The lines were due to a number of factors. Many voters had new polling places due to the redistricting required by the 2010 Census. Legislation increased the number of voters at some polling places by 100 percent. Ballots ran to five sides in a few communities. And voters also had to contend with voting machines weve had since the 1990s.
You probably did not stand in line for hours at your polling place on Election Day, but too many people did. When it comes to elections, my office has many, many duties, but we dont have any authority over polling places. Even so, were trying to help solve the problem, said Mollis.
The Secretary of State's office maintains the state's voter registration database, encourages voter registration and turnout and creates guides to running for office and voting.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.