Pandemic election spurs proposals to expand voting access permanently in RI

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While states like Texas, Georgia and Arizona are backing controversial bills that opponents say impose restrictions for voters, Rhode Island is considering expanding access to voting.

A series of bills seeking to make permanent the temporary voting measures implemented during the pandemic has been brought before the R.I. General Assembly.

The measures include removing the witness notary requirement for mail-in ballots and installing permanent mail ballot drop-off boxes.

“This would make us better prepared for future problems,” John Marion of Common Cause RI said. “If we don’t make these permanent, it’s going to be a lot harder to vote on a mail ballot moving forward and people really seemed to like them. They were really popular.”

But Rhode Island Republicans argue those measures were taken during a public health crisis and shouldn’t stick around.

“I don’t remember hearing any substantial evidence pre-COVID that that needed to happen, that we need to weaken the security of our elections,” R.I. House Minority Leader Rep. Blake Filippi said.

Filippi argues lawmakers should instead focus their attention on cleaning up the state’s voter rolls. He called the recently proposed Democratic bill proposals “ideologically driven.”

“They should just come out and say, ‘Everyone should be able to vote on their computer’ and be done with it, because that’s where we are going,” Filippi said.

The Rhode Island Board of Elections supports a majority of the proposals, though none have yet to be voted on.

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