Election operations improving, but further to go, says Gorbea

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State leaders in Rhode Island are working to ensure elections are accessible, accurate, and secure, and Wednesday, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said improvements have been made.

Last year, Gorbea commissioned a state elections task force which came up with 17 recommendations on administration and cybersecurity for elections. So far, 10 of those recommendations have been completed.

On the plus side, Gorbea said, “I can say unequivocally that Rhode Island was not among the 21 states that federal officials determined were targeted by Russian hackers in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear,” she added.

To increase cybersecurity, the elections task force encouraged Rhode Island to join the 29 other states that require post-election audits. That’s done: the legislation for that passed last year, and a pilot audit is set for Election Day 2018.

Voter rolls have also been cleaned out. In 2016, there were 189,000 extra names on the registered voter list. Since then, the state has joined ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center.

“We now have 22 states and the District of Columbia that will – in a very secure environment – share DMV records, voter lists; we check them against the Social Security master death file – and we’ll get a report back as to people who they identify may have moved,” Gorbea explained.

Ahead, one item in the works is allowing in-person voting 20 days before Election Day. Legislation to permit it is currently being reviewed in both chambers of the General Assembly. Other recommendations included automatic voter registration legislation.

The recommendations were down to details, too – the task force said it would be a good idea to put green arrows on voting machine slots to clearly show where the ballots should go.

Gorbea is also excited about changes to her department’s website that are set to go live soon –the Online Voting Information Center that will be accessible and optimized for smartphone web browsers. That’s set to become available May 1.

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