On Tuesday, November 3, Rhode Islanders will take to the polls to exercise their right to vote. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic this year will be different from others.
Not only will voters be required to wear masks and practice social distancing, some voters may also experience increased waiting times due to a national shortage of poll workers. Additionally, places such as senior centers or nursing homes have declined to host polling due to the potential high-risk nature, leading to a shortage of polling sites. According to State Board of Elections Deputy Director of Elections, Miguel Nunez, nearly 130 polling places are unavailable throughout the state.
Nunez stated that potential solutions include condensing multiple polling places into one building which the Board of Elections claimed could cause confusion and a lack of parking. “Parking can become an issue sometimes, but more of a problem is making sure voters actually know which polling place in the building is actually their assigned polling place,” Nunez said. “We can address that by having additional signage, and greeters available to quickly look them up on an electronic poll book and direct them to either Side A or Side B in the gym, or perhaps the cafeteria. So this will require additional poll workers.” The Board of Elections has stated that they have recruited over 2,000 additional poll workers thanks to a social media partnership with “Power The Polls.”
Rhode Islanders have several options available to them should they choose to vote in the upcoming election. Voters who prefer to vote by mail should have requested a mail-in ballot by October 13. In addition, all mail-in ballots will need to be received by the Rhode Island Board of Elections by 8 pm on November 3. According to election officials, there are four common mistakes that can lead to a rejected ballot voters make when submitting mail-in ballots-- the ballot was not submitted on time, your signature does not match the one on your voter registration, the correct envelopes were not used when mailing your ballot or the ballot was not signed at all. Mail-in ballots also require the use of dark ink, black ink is preferred.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, asserted that as of Thursday over 170,000 Rhode Islanders have already cast their ballot, this is over a third of the total votes cast in Rhode Island in 2016. Furthermore, the State Board of Elections stated that they have received 113,567 mail-in ballots out of 175,439 that were requested. The Board of Elections is also responsible for matching signatures to voter registrations. Should a discrepancy be discovered voters will be contacted and have seven days to correct the problem.
Early voting is taking place for the first time in Rhode Island. Early voting began on October 13 and will end on November 2, those wishing to vote early will need to go to their local board of canvassers, located in their local town or city hall. Voters will also need to provide identification such as a license, Military ID, RIPTA bus pass, passport or an ID card issued by a United States educational institution or the state government.
Voters who wish to cast their ballots on election day can find their polling place at https://vote.sos.ri.gov/Home/PollingPlaces. They will also be required to provide identification; however, if a voter is unable to provide ID on Election Day they will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot which will be counted only if the signature on the ballot matches the voter registration. Furthermore, unregistered voters will be allowed to register to vote on election day but will only be allowed to vote in the Presidential race.
To find a ballot drop box near you click here
To register to be a poll worker click here