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RI leaders debating whether to delay or modify presidential primary

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down businesses, schools and government buildings, Rhode Island leaders are now debating what to do about the April 28 presidential primary.

“Every option is on the table,” said Steve Erickson, the vice-chair of the R.I. Board of Elections. “We’re looking into the possibility of postponing the primary.”

Erickson said other options include holding an “all mail-ballot primary,” or sending out mail ballots to every registered voter and only opening a small number of polling places.

“There are a wide variety of options on the table,” Erickson said. The elections board is meeting Tuesday to discuss the matter.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea supports holding a “predominantly mail ballot election” on April 28, according to a letter she sent to the Board of Elections on Monday.

“All of us who have worked in the administration of elections have quickly come to realize that the public health concerns raised by the coronavirus makes running a conventional election both unwise and impractical,” Gorbea said in the letter to elections board chair Diane Mederos.

She said the plan would require an executive order by Gov. Gina Raimondo to suspend existing mail ballot laws, which set time restraints and other requirements and limits for requesting and submitting mail ballots.

Raimondo said Monday morning she did not expect to delay the primary, but said state leaders were looking into whether “it could be done all by voting at home and mail ballots.”

“From where I’m sitting, that’s an eternity away,” Raimondo said. “But my answer is that we’re going to keep it where it is.”

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Eli Sherman contributed to this report.

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