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7/16/2020 Rep. Shanley and Sen. Lynch Prata’s emergency mail ballot legislation passes the General Assembly
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Evan P. Shanley and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2020-H 8102A / 2020-S 2598A) which amends the state’s emergency mail ballot procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

The legislation adds an additional option for securing a mail ballot by permitting emergency mail ballot applications to be processed at local boards of canvassers in person on electronic poll pads, which will allow the voter to then cast their ballot and place the ballot themselves into a state-approved voting machine at the local board of canvassers.  Voters will have up to 20 days before the election to vote in this manner.

 “The pandemic has upended our daily lives in every conceivable way, and this includes how we conduct our elections.  This bill will protect the voters and poll workers from possible exposure to COVID-19 while also ensuring that every voter has the ability to cast their vote in the upcoming elections,” said Representative Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).

“This bill is necessary to protect people from COVID-19 while also making sure our upcoming elections are transparent, secure, and most importantly, accessible to anyone who wishes to vote.  This option will keep people safe and guarantee that no one has to forego voting out of fear of the pandemic,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Currently, when applying for an emergency mail ballot, voters must fill out a notarized application, fill out a mail ballot and place it in a sealed envelope where it is left in a pile until the end of the day when the local board of canvassers hand delivers the ballots to the Board of Elections.  The process is time intensive for both voters and election employees and several local boards of canvassers have expressed concern that they will be unable to meet the demand for emergency mail ballots due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This new option for securing an emergency mail ballot will save voters and employees much-needed time, increase the efficiency of the process, and promote voter confidence by having the voter physically cast their own ballots.

Voters will need a valid proof of identity in order to utilize this voting option.  The traditional process of securing a mail ballot is still in effect as well and the RI Board of Elections has voiced their support for the passage of the legislation.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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