CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos will remain in the race for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District seat as signatures submitted by her campaign continue to be investigated.
After reviewing all 1,285 signatures, the R.I. Board of Elections (BOE) announced Tuesday that while many were invalid, there was no evidence of widespread fraud and Matos has enough confirmed signatures to move forward.
The initial numbers displayed during Tuesday’s meeting showed that 726 signatures were approved and 559 were disqualified for reasons such as “not registered,” “not eligible,” and “signature mismatch.” The findings were similar to what was reported by local boards of canvassers.
Some of the signatures were found to be from dead people, according to the BOE, while others were from people who said they didn’t sign, as revealed by the Target 12 Investigation that prompted the probe.
“Let’s stop this madness about signatures, because you already got it double-double-checked, first by the board of canvassers and the secretary of state, and now by the Board of Elections,” Matos told 12 News following the ruling. “I think you have enough proof. If you don’t want to believe me, I think you have double proof.”
Candidates needed 500 signatures to appear on the ballot.
The board plans to carry its investigation further, but not until after the Sept. 5 primary. Members said they don’t want to interfere with the election, but still need to get to the bottom of what happened.
“I don’t want to see this just simply fall away, and that’s a real concern of mine, Louis DeSimone Jr. said. “I am certainly not alleging anything against the candidate.”
Subpoenas will be sent to a dozen people who collected signatures for the campaign, compelling them to testify before the board.
Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion released a statement Tuesday saying the system needs to be improved after the board’s review revealed “inconsistencies in the process at local boards of canvassers.”
“It is clear that changes to the process must be made, including additional training, a clearer chain of communications when problem signatures are identified, more extensive regulations, and a revised election calendar that will give the Board of Elections more time to investigate in the future when questions arise about the validity of signatures,” Marion wrote.
Matos is one of 12 Democrats running to replace David Cicilline in the First Congressional District, which covers part of Providence County and all of Newport and Bristol counties.
Early voting for the special primary begins on Wednesday.