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9/16/2020 Sen. Raptakis applauds plan to send mail ballot applications to every RI voter, but says it won’t survive legal challenge
State Senator suggests that with USPS threatening to endanger effectiveness of mail ballots, Secretary of State should focus on encouraging early in-person voting

STATE HOUSE – On the day that Rhode Island Secretary of State proclaimed she was going to send out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Islander without legislative approval, Colorado’s Secretary of State raised alarms about a postcard sent to voters across the country by the U.S. Postal Service that contained misleading information about voting by mail.

Sen. Leonidas Raptakis (D-Dist 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) said that while Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s intent is admirable, good intentions don’t give her the right to assume she has the authority to make law. That is the General Assembly’s responsibility and while it is unfortunate that the bill that would have required sending a mail ballot application to every Rhode Islander for the general election did not pass, it does not allow the state’s top election official to pretend the law allows her to do it.

At the same time, Raptakis said the disturbing actions of the USPS in trying to muddy the waters about the mail-in voting process, should have Secretary Gorbea focusing on encouraging people to take advantage of early voting opportunities that allow Rhode Island voters to cast an “emergency” ballot in-person at their City or Town Hall in the twenty days before the November 3 election. (That early, in-person voting will begin on October 14.)

“I appreciate Secretary of State Gorbea’s desire to give Rhode Island voters all the options they need to safely cast a ballot this November, but this has the appearance of a grandstanding play that could end up causing more confusion if the Secretary’s plan doesn’t survive the inevitable legal challenge,” said Raptakis. “Given the statements of Colorado’s Secretary of State, I fear the U.S. Postal Service may not be a reliable honest broker in effectively and efficiently processing mail-in ballots. Given that reality, Secretary Gorbea should be focused on what can be legally be done to make sure our citizens vote in November and that means focusing on getting people to vote early, as the law allows.”

Senator Raptakis notes the importance of voting and that voting does not necessarily mean electing a particular person to office.

“Voting is too important for the process to hinder anyone’s ability to cast a ballot.  When voting, the public not only selects candidates to assume office, but crucial votes are also cast for ballot referendums, bonding, budgets, and various other items with significant financial implications.  We must make voting accessible for everyone,” said Raptakis.

Late Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold took to Twitter to call out a postcard sent to voters last week by the USPS that advised them to “mail your ballot at least 7 days before Election Day.” That recommendation was made despite the fact that local election officials in many states are advising voters to mail them back much sooner. Griswold tweeted, “Confusing voters about mail ballots in the middle of a pandemic is unacceptable. It can undermine confidence in the election & suppress votes.”

Raptakis said he doubts Secretary Gorbea’s move to send mail ballot applications to every voter in the state will survive a court challenge, noting that in making the announcement, Gorbea only had one member of the Board of Elections taking part in the press conference announcing her plan. And instead of citing the statute she felt gave her the authority to essentially enact a new law, she later sent out a press spokesperson to insist that “no change in the law is necessary to send out applications.”

“If no change in the law is necessary, why didn’t Secretary Gorbea take that stance from the beginning, instead of having a Task Force call for legislative solutions in July that included sending out mail ballot applications to every Rhode Island voter?” asked Raptakis. “Why did her own press release announcing those Task Force findings say she was “reaching out to the General Assembly and Governor Gina Raimondo” to enact these plans and why did she decry the Senate’s failure to pass the bill that was approved by the House and not tell us then that she was going to declare herself a law-maker,” concluded Senator Raptakis
Related Links:
Secretary of State Gorbea’s July 9, 2020 press release on findings of elections Task Force:
Story on Colorado Secretary of State’s response to USPS postcard to voters:

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903