PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More Rhode Islanders have voted by mail and by ’emergency’ ballot ahead of Wednesday’s primary than did so in the 2014 primary, according to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s office.
As of 6:15 Tuesday evening, 5,076 mail ballots had been returned out of 6,265 requested, and 3,327 emergency ballots had been cast.
The numbers are up from the last midterm primary in 2014, when 4,402 mail ballots were returned and 2,243 emergency ballots were cast.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea attributed the increase to more outreach from her office, which has been encouraging voters to take advantage of other options to vote.
“Not everybody can make it out on a given day in the middle of the week,” Gorbea said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “So now we say you should vote by September 12, not necessarily on September 12.”
Voters who don’t request mail ballots by the deadline 20 days before an election have the option to apply for “emergency” mail ballots at their city or town hall, where they can vote on the spot. Previously, emergency voters had to attest that they had a reason to be absent on election day. But state law was changed in 2011 to allow voters who “may” not make it to the polls on election day to cast the early ballots.
“It’s kind of like early voting but not really, because you have to still go down to city or town hall and you have to fill out a lot of paperwork, so it’s not as easy as early voting,” Gorbea explained. She has introduced legislation every year to implement true early voting in Rhode Island, but the bills have not passed.
Gorbea said while identification is not required to get an emergency ballot, signatures on the oath envelope have to be witnessed by two people or notarized. The notary, which is often the city or town clerk at the location where the ballot is being filled out, can ask for ID to validate the signature.
While the deadline to request an emergency ballot has passed, voters who still have mail ballots out can return them to the Board of Elections by 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The primary is being held on Wednesday this year instead of Tuesday in order to avoid the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
To find your polling place, view your ballot or check what kind of ID you need to bring to the polls, visit vote.ri.gov.