Mail-in ballot system underway after RI Primary postponed due to COVID-19

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tuesday was originally scheduled to be Rhode Island’s Presidential Primary but coronavirus concerns pushed the day back to June 2.

On Monday, New York canceled its primary but the Ocean State is trying to avoid doing the same by mailing ballots to each Rhode Islander.

“It’s never been done,” Eyewitness News Political Analyst Joe Fleming said. “It’s going to be very complicated for the parties but also the state of Rhode Island to make sure it is done correctly.”

A mail-in ballot system is underway with the state saying applications for ballots will be out in the coming days.

The Secretary of State’s office said the deadline to file that application is May 19th.

The new system will also clean out the state’s voter database by marking a voter inactive if there are undeliverable ballots — this will give the state a more accurate count in this and future polls.

“I’m calling on all Rhode Islanders who receive a mail ballot application for someone who no longer lives at that address to return the application to my office as undeliverable,” Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said. “This allows us to start the 4-year process, under federal law, of legally removing that person from the voter rolls. Your participation is a critical part in helping us maintain accurate voter lists and protecting the integrity of every vote.”

For the election itself, Democrats and Republicans already have their presumptive candidates.

“We’re having the primary, but there is no motivation for the regular voter to go out in vote in this primary,” Fleming said. “So whether we are doing a mail ballot or regular voting procedure, the turnout would be very low.”

The countdown for the general election in November is also on and although it is too soon to tell, Fleming says some states are using the primaries as a test run for the fall.

“We’re talking about a small number of ballots being returned now, in November we’re talking about 350,000 to 400,000 applications going out so we have to be careful on this,” he said.

Joe Biden continued his winning streak after Super Tuesday with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both dropping out a short time later.

Campaigning has effectively stopped and both candidates have had to change their strategies.

In the meantime, former Vice President Biden is establishing his candidacy at home. President Donald Trump continues to hold daily briefings and Fleming says it is “valuable face time” in the absence of campaign events.

“So a lot of it is going to be social media, paid media. Not so much personal contact with the candidate which is something Donald Trump loves,” Fleming said. “He loves those big rallies to motivate his base. It’s going to be difficult for him to do that. He’s going to have to go to the paid media aspect of the campaigns than personalization.”

The state says they are still offering an in-person voting option for those who are unable to vote by mail but locations will be limited.

The deadline to register to vote in Rhode Island is May 3.

For more information on the mail-in primary, where to register to vote and more, click here »

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