Governor Dan McKee today signed into law the ‘Let RI Vote Act,’ legislation that “expands voter access while ensuring the integrity of Rhode Island elections”.
“There is nothing more fundamentally American than the right to vote – it provides every Rhode Islander the opportunity to have a say in how they would like to see their state, and country, shaped,” said Governor McKee. “The Let RI Vote Act makes voting easier, safer, and more secure, and making it easier to give Rhode Islanders a voice in their government should always be our top priority. I thank the bill sponsors, legislators, and advocates who saw to it that this bill got across the finish line.”?
Governor McKee was joined for the signing by House Majority Leader Chris Blazejewski, bill sponsors House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian and Senator Dawn Euer and many representatives of stakeholder groups who helped get this bill over the finish line.
The legislation (2022-H 7100A, 2022-S 2007A) makes mail voting easier by allowing online mail ballot applications, and permitting any voter to use a mail ballot or an emergency mail ballot without needing an excuse for why they can’t visit their polling location on Election Day. It also drops the requirement that mail ballots be either signed by two witnesses or notarized. Instead, voters’ signatures will be verified using their registration records using a four-tiered verification process. The bill requires every municipality to maintain at least one drop box where voters can deposit their ballots securely through the close of polls on Election Day. Additionally, the act allows nursing home residents to opt in to automatically receive applications for mail ballots for every subsequent election.
“COVID-19, the events of January 6th, 2021, and unfair voter treatment across the U.S. have exacerbated the need for election reform,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “I commend the leadership of House Majority Whip Kazarian and Senator Euer for promoting and protecting every Rhode Islander’s right to cast their vote.”
The bill also enhances the state’s voter registration list maintenance procedures, requiring the Secretary of State to update the voter list at least four times each year. Additionally, the bill reduces the application deadline for a Braille ballot from 45 days to 21 days before an election, and requires the Secretary of State to establish a permanent multilingual voter information hotline.
“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 bill sponsor House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence). “It is for this reason that I introduced this bill to make these temporary changes in election law permanent, making sure that every voter has the ability to cast their ballot easily, safely and securely.”?
“It should be easy to access your right to vote. Giving voters options about when and how to cast their vote is a way to ensure that our elections really do produce results that reflect the will of the people – all the people,” said bill sponsor Senator Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). “Rhode Island’s elections in 2020 showed that we can give voters options for casting their ballots while maintaining elections that are safe, smooth and secure, and that doing so significantly improves voter turnout. Removing the roadblocks that discourage voter participation brings our elections closer to what they are supposed to be — the opportunity for all Americans to have their say in their government.”?