(WPRI) — Before you head to the polls, you might want to stop and grab a coffee or bite to eat first.
And be prepared to wait.
Lots and lots of Rhode Island voters are anxious to cast ballots in the 2018 midterm elections, and by noon, plenty of people made their way through long lines.
A poll worker told Target 12’s Tim White this is the busiest year she’s ever seen, even compared to years of presidential elections.
I don’t know if it’s turnout or the new scanning system but this was the longest I’ve had to wait at my polling location. Worker said it’s the busiest she’s ever seen, even compared to presidential years (which traditionally have a higher turnout)— Tim White (@TimWhiteRI) November 6, 2018
Approximately 337,535 voters had cast a ballot as of 7 p.m., according to the Rhode Island Board of Elections. That is already more than the total turnout in 2014, the last time the state elected a governor. (That number doesn’t include about 30,000 requested mail absentee ballots.)
This is trending toward being Rhode Island’s 2nd-biggest voter turnout in a midterm election in recent history. Could eclipse all but 2006 (394,000). https://t.co/shNDGWWbMl— Ted Nesi (@TedNesi) November 7, 2018
But the day is still young. It’s not clear if turnout will be higher than usual, or just earlier than usual.
Only a few operational issues were reported at the polls by noon. Besides utilizing Twitter for updates, the Board of Elections used a video chat call to guide a technician through clearing a ballot jammed in a machine. One polling place in Cumberland had a printing issue, and it has since been resolved.
On Prudence Island, a voting machine needed to be replaced due to a technical issue. The new machine came over on the ferry Tuesday morning.
Our support staff this morning using video chat to assist one of our technicians with clearing a ballot jam at a polling place. Technicians remain in constant communication with our office via chat, video, and phone. #ElectionDay pic.twitter.com/AZ5HI3Fyi2— RI Board of Elections (@RI_BOE) November 6, 2018
A few polls opened a bit late; the Board of Elections said it was due to some poll workers not reporting for duty on time, or having trouble entering a complex password to start the voting machines.
Mail ballots can be dropped in the secure 24-hour drop box at the Board of Elections office on Branch Avenue in Providence. They’re due there before 8 p.m. Tuesday.
To save time and hassle when you get to the head of the line, you can check your voter registration at the state’s vote.ri.gov website. Sample ballots are there too for you to print out if you need a dry run. (If you’re printing, make sure to select “size to fit” in the printing window. The big ballots are longer than a standard 8.5×11 piece of paper.)
Rhode Island has 789,950 total registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
The state has never had 400,000 voters show up for a midterm, according to a check of records by WPRI.com Reporter Ted Nesi. The closest we’ve come was in 2006, when Lincoln Chafee faced off against Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate. There were about 394,000 voters then.
Rhode Island has never had 400,000 voters show up for a midterm (per records dating back to 1970). Closest was 2006 (Chafee vs Whitehouse; about 394,000). Not predicting it happens today, but anything close to that would be quite high.— Ted Nesi (@TedNesi) November 6, 2018
Ted Nesi and Alexandra Leslie contributed reporting.