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5/28/2013 Legislation passes allowing all in line by poll closing time to vote
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation that would allow any voter who is in line at a polling place by 8 p.m. to cast a ballot, regardless of whether or not they were inside the building in which the voting is being held.

Under current law, a voter must be inside a polling place’s building by 8 p.m., the time Rhode Island’s polls close, in order to cast a ballot. On a proposal by Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, though, both the House and Senate introduced bills to eliminate the language that requires voters to be inside the building, so that as long as they are in line by the time polls close, they are allowed to vote.

“If voters show up to the polls on time, they should be allowed to vote. The size of the building or the length of the line should not matter,” said Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), the bill’s lead sponsor in the House. “Anyone who is willing to wait outside to do their civic duty should not be turned away. This bill would make sure that every registered voter who wants to vote gets to vote, so our elections are more inclusive.”

“I’m glad my colleagues supported this measure that will help more civic-minded Rhode Islanders vote,” said Senator Sheehan, sponsor of the Senate bill. “Too many willing voters were at risk of being turned away this past election, and we need to make sure everyone in line by 8 p.m. can cast a ballot. This is a straightforward way to make sure our elections are open to every registered voter who shows up on time.”

The House bill (2013-H5771) was co-sponsored by Rep. Maria E. Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence). It passed the House on April 2 after clearing the House Judiciary Committee, of which Representative Ajello is the chairwoman, and passed the Senate in concurrence today.

The companion Senate bill (2013-S0626) was co-sponsored by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Sen. V Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, North Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket). It passed the Senate on April 9, and passed the House in concurrence today.

Both House and Senate bills will now head to the Governor’s desk for approval.

In the most recent General Election this past November, voters waited in long lines at many locations, including one Providence precinct where the wait was nearly three hours.

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457