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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Senate OKs Coyne bill to equip Board of Elections to handle increase in mail ballots
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne to better equip the Board of Elections to handle more mail ballots.
The legislation (
) expands the time the Board of Elections has to certify mail ballots, allowing the board to begin 20 days before an election rather than 14 days. It also codifies a more comprehensive mail ballot voter signature verification process.
The bill was passed on the same day the Senate approved the Let RI Vote Act (
), which would make permanent several elections provisions put in place in 2020 to protect voters during the pandemic, including wider use of mail ballots. With those provisions in place, nearly 33 percent of Rhode Island voters voted by mail in 2020, compared to less than 9 percent in the previous presidential election in 2016. Increased use of mail ballots, plus the introduction of early voting in Rhode Island, resulted in a record number of voters in the 2020 general election.
“We should be embracing all the ways to make voting more accessible and convenient for all Rhode Islanders, because increased participation better ensures elections that represent the will of the people,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). “This legislation helps ensure that the Board of Elections has what it needs to ensure secure, smooth elections as more Rhode Islanders embrace their opportunities to vote before Election Day.”
Besides giving the Board of Elections more time to certify mail ballots, the legislation spells out a more secure verification system for mail ballots, requiring a two-person review of every mail ballot to ensure each voter’s signature matches the one recorded in the state’s central voter registration system.
The bill now goes to the House, where Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) is sponsoring its companion bill (
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
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