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Voting Access Coalition re-launches ‘Let RI Vote’ campaign
The COVID pandemic has changed the way we live our lives – including how we vote.
STATE HOUSE – At a press conference held today in the State House Library, the RI Voting Access Coalition relaunched the “Let RI Vote” campaign in support of two pieces of election reform legislation.
The Let RI Vote Act, sponsored by House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (
) and Sen. Dawn Euer (
), would make permanent the temporary pandemic-era policies which were enacted to keep voters and election administrators safe by expanding access to early voting and mail ballots.
“As we saw in 2020, early voting alternatives were used by a large portion of our population and the results of this change in voting patterns produced a smooth and secure election process that ensured that everyone’s vote was safely counted,” said Whip Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence). “It is for this reason that we have introduced legislation to make these temporary changes in election law permanent, making sure that every voter has the ability to cast their ballot.”
“Free and fair elections are a pillar of our democracy,” Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) said. “Updating our voting laws to remove unnecessary barriers will make it easier for people to exercise this fundamental right. In 2020, Rhode Islanders were given choices to cast their ballots and they responded in record numbers. After our state ran four successful elections giving voters those choices it’s time to make those changes permanent. All Rhode Islanders deserve an opportunity to vote by mail, or early, or on Election Day, in a manner that is safe and secure.”
Adding to the need to pass the Let RI Vote Act, Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the RI AFLCIO, said, “Improving access to mail ballots and early voting is a working class issue. The old fashioned idea that working folks spend their weekdays on a 9-to-5 shift are long gone and it’s time our voting systems recognize 21st century realities. Workers have had to adapt to the new ways of the working world and if we are going to encourage participation in the electoral process then our laws need to adapt as well.”
Angela McCalla from the Women's Fund Rhode Island said as part of her remarks, “No one should have to choose between their jobs and responsibilities, or risk the wellbeing of their families and communities to participate fully and equally in our democracy.” She continued, “I know what it is like to be a young mother, needing to hold two, sometimes three jobs, while going to school and raising my young child, trying to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs. When I look back at that time and think about trying to navigate the voting process – I wonder why it had to be so difficult?”
While moderating the press event, Let RI Vote campaign spokesperson, Marcela Betancur, also shared, “Other important provisions of the Let RI Vote Act is the Multilingual Voter Information Hotline, and an extension on the deadline to request a braille ballot Deadline. Having a dedicated line creates familiarity with a reliable and trusted source for official information which is critical to combat misinformation about elections, especially among non-English speaking voters. This also reduces strain on local election administrators and the Board of Elections so they can focus on serving as many voters as possible. Improving the braille ballot request deadline helps prevent disenfranchisement of voters with visual impairments.”
The Same-Day Voter Registration Resolution sponsored by Sen. Alana M. DiMario and Rep. Nathan W. Biah (awaiting bill numbers) would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment allowing the General Assembly to create same-day voter registration, something that four of the six states in New England currently allow and is a proven reform for expanding voter turnout.
“Our government works best when it truly reflects the will of the people it serves,” Senator DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) said. “Removing barriers to voting like the 30 day registration requirement results in more people having their voice heard on Election Day. We don’t want them to face an antiquated barrier which keeps them out of the process and sends the message that their voice doesn’t matter.”
“I want to be very clear: This is about a constitutional right to vote. This is about making sure everyone has their voice heard and their vote counted. Whether you are black or white, young or old, Democrat or Republican – this is about ensuring everyone has the ability to cast a full ballot – if they choose to. Every vote matters,” said Representative Biah (D-Dist. 3, Providence).
Jim Vincent from the Providence NAACP spoke in favor of Same-Day Registration, “The NAACP Providence Branch strongly believes that voting access should be made easier, not harder. If Rhode Islanders truly believe in a multicultural democracy, then the Black community should be able to fully participate in that democracy.”
Campaign Partner Quotes:
“RILPAC supports the Let RI Vote Act and Same-Day Registration to expand voting opportunities. The right to vote is what drives the desire to become a US citizen; it’s the opportunity to be able to make change with your vote. Early in-person voting and vote by mail options gives the community a chance to make a difference in their own neighborhood. The Latino community includes people who cannot leave their home or have limited schedules, and those are the people whose vote matters most.” – Maribel Echeverry McLaughlin, President, RI Latino Political Action Committee
“The Let RI Vote Act would make several important changes that benefit 50+ voters in Rhode Island. Historically 50+ voters have preferred the option of voting by mail. Rhode Island’s mail ballot laws are among the most restrictive in the United States. We are one of only three states, along with Alabama and North Carolina, which require the signature of two witnesses, or a notary public, on a voted mail ballot. Hundreds of thousands of Rhode Island voters used mail ballots for the first time in 2020. Many will want to continue to use them when the pandemic has ended. According to recent data collected by AARP RI two-thirds of Rhode Island voters age 45 plus strongly or somewhat support making permanent provisions to allow voters more choices in the way they can vote. The Let RI Vote Act would provide those choices to all Rhode Islanders.” – Catherine Taylor, RI State Director, AARP
“Voting rights are under attack around the country. It is imperative that Rhode Island acts to protect and expand access to the ballot by preserving pandemic-era policies which eased voting in 2020. The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island believes that the passage of the Let RI Vote Act will enable more people to exercise their right to vote and strengthen our democracy.” – Jane Koster, President of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island
The Let RI Vote campaign is a project of the Rhode Island Voting Access Coalition.
Organizations supporting this project include:
AARP Rhode Island ⋄ ACLU of Rhode ⋄ Alliance of RI Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) ⋄ Brown Votes ⋄ Clean Water Action Rhode Island ⋄ College Democrats of Rhode Island ⋄ Common Cause Rhode Island ⋄ Every Vote Counts at Brown University ⋄ Formerly Incarcerated Union of Rhode Island ⋄ Housing Network of Rhode Island ⋄ Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University ⋄ League of Women Voters of Rhode Island ⋄ NAACP Providence Branch ⋄ National Council of Jewish Women, RI Action Team ⋄ National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) ⋄ National Organization for Women, Rhode Island Chapter ⋄ Planned Parenthood of Southern New England ⋄ RepresentUs ⋄ Rhode Island AFL-CIO ⋄ Rhode Island Carpenters Union ⋄ Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence ⋄ Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence ⋄ Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness ⋄ Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights ⋄ Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus ⋄ Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council ⋄ Rhode Island Latino PAC ⋄ Rhode Island Service Employees International Union (SEIU) ⋄ Rhode Island Working Families Party ⋄ The National Vote at Home Institute ⋄ The Womxn Project ⋄ United Auto Workers Region 9A ⋄ Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
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