The COVID-19 pandemic has upended virtually every aspect of life, including the upcoming presidential preference primary. Rep. Lauren H. Carson is reminding voters that the primary date has changed, and that there are also changes to the mail ballot system as a result of the crisis.

The state has moved the date of the primary from April 28 to June 2. In another change, the Secretary of State’s office is mailing every registered voter a mail ballot application and a postage-paid envelope in which to return it, in an effort to run a “mostly mail ballot” primary. Those who return the mail ballot application by the application deadline — May 19 — will receive their ballot in the mail, along with another postage-paid envelope to return it once they’ve filled it out.

Those voting by mail will be required to sign the ballot and affix either their Rhode Island driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Municipalities will confirm all signatures to validate authenticity of voters. Ballots must be returned by June 1 at 8 p.m.

Polling places will still be open June 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (noon to 8 p.m. in New Shoreham) for those who do not vote by mail.

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“Although the presidential candidates are pretty clear by now, Rhode Islanders still deserve and are guaranteed the right to vote for the candidate of their choice….This voting plan, endorsed by the Rhode Island State Board of Elections, has created a mail voting system with checks and balances that I support,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport, in a recent message to constituents. “Keep in mind that elections are labor intensive events and many of the election staff and poll volunteers are committed citizens over 60 years of age, and they are the most vulnerable in the pandemic.  Additionally, there will be limited polls open, complicating this vote.”

The deadline for voter registration is now May 3. May 4 is the deadline for disaffiliation from a political party, which is required for voters who are affiliated with a party but wish to vote in another party’s primary.

For more information about voting or to check your voter registration or party affiliation status, visit vote.sos.ri.gov. Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has also posted a brief video about the changes, viewable here.

For information on elections by mail nationwide, Representative Carson suggested voters read this article from the National Conference on State Legislatures.

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