Rhode Island

In 2019, Rhode Island politicians have turned their focus to election integrity and restoring voters’ faith in elections. Election security and accuracy is a crucial foundation of fair and free elections, and it is important for states to be focusing on election integrity before the 2020 elections.

While Rhode Island has been one of the many states that have enacted suppressive voter ID laws over the last few years, Democratic legislators were at least able to dull those measures this session. Rhode Island Democrats enacted legislation (SB 611HB 5714) that allows voters to use ID that have been expired for up to six months for elections. Very specific voter IDs should never be required to vote, but at least this legislation will slightly limit the voter ID law’s suppressive effect. Rhode Island Dem lawmakers also tried to (SB 339) repeal the state’s voter ID law, but they were unsuccessful.

Democratic lawmakers enacted a bill to extend absentee ballot deadlines for voters in the military.

Rhode Island Democrats also introduced other legislation that would have made voting more accessible for citizens, but those measures did not pass. Democrats introduced legislation to create in-person early voting (HB 5292), create vote-by-mail and early in-person voting (HB 5885SB 631), allow voters who will be 18 by the date of a general election to vote in a primary (HB 5139SB 318SB 319), permit emergency ballots (HB 5712SB 482), require employers give employees two hours of paid leave for voting on Election Day (SB 316), require paper ballots (HB 5479) establish an independent redistricting commission (HB 5087SB 368)

At the same time, the Rhode Island GOP was trying to make voting harder by restricting who can submit a vote-by-mail ballot (SB 482) and restricting voters ability to vote-by-mail (SB 487).