Rhode Island

Articles about voting issues in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island: Board of Elections recommends against sending mail ballot applications to all registered voters for September primary | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

State election officials sent word Wednesday that they do not support sending unsolicited mail ballot applications to every one of Rhode Island’s 700,000-plus registered voters for the September primaries. The unanimous vote, aimed at Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, came during a two-hour meeting of the Board of Elections that touched on worries about a possible resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall and the chilling effect that could have on voting. As one of the commissioners who also sits on Gorbea’s separate elections task force, Isadore Ramos questioned the value of the “redundancy.” “Now we’re talking about the same issues,’’ he said. ”I’ve heard it all. It is time to move and make some decisions.“ Read More

Rhode Island: 100K mail ballot applications sent by state were returned to sender | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

In the end, roughly 83% of the 123,875 Rhode Islanders who voted in Rhode Island’s June 2 presidential primary voted by mail ballot. But in the first-ever predominantly mail-ballot election, an unknown number of ballots went astray; at least 1,670 ballots arrived in the mail too late to be counted; and approximately 100,000 of the mail ballot applications the state sent, unsolicited, to 779,463 registered voters were returned as undeliverable, according to post-election reports from the Board of Elections. In an effort to reduce potential public exposure to the highly transmissible COVID-19 respiratory disease, state elections officials slashed the number of polling stations and attempted to conduct a predominantly mail-ballot election. While the machine-vote tallies made President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden the apparent winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday, the unofficial tally was not posted until Friday night. Read More

Rhode Island: 6,100 masks, 750 bottles of hand sanitizer: Election board lays out how it will hold June 2 presidential primary | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

For a presidential primary like no other Rhode Island has ever seen, state election officials say they will need: 1,400 masks for poll workers, 4,700 masks for voters who arrive without their own, 750 bottles of hand sanitizer and 150 face shields. The list goes on. Disinfectant spray. Gloves. Cleaning towels. Social-distancing floor decals. Social-distancing signage. The state Board of Elections’ “In-Person Voting Preliminary Covid-19 Response Plan’’ assumes the state’s emergency management agency will, at the very least, provide the personal protective equipment, or PPE. Made public for the first time Friday morning, the plan resulted from talks between staff at the board and the state Department of Health about how to protect voters and poll workers at the 47 polling stations that will be open for the June 2 presidential primary. While state elections officials have been pushing a “predominantly mail ballot election’’ by sending mail ballot applications unsolicited to every voter in the state, they know some voters will want to vote as they always have: at a polling station. Read More

Rhode Island: State to open only 47 polling places statewide for presidential primary | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

Many fewer polling places will be open for Rhode Island’s June 2 presidential primary than in the past, amid a push to get more Rhode Islanders to vote by mail ballot. Earlier this week, the state Board of Elections, meeting remotely via Zoom, approved requests by the cities and towns to open 47 polling locations in the 39 cities and towns. In most communities there will be only one polling station. In Cranston and Warwick there will be two in Pawtucket there will be three, and in Providence four. By way of comparison, there were 144 polling places open statewide for Rhode Island’s 2016 presidential primary. Read More

Rhode Island: Governor orders primary postponement | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

Governor Raimondo has signed an executive order moving Rhode Island’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2, as requested by the state Board of Elections. She announced her decision in a tweet that said: “Last week, the Board of Elections requested that the presidential primary election be postponed from April 28 to June 2 and that the election take place primarily by mail ballot. “I am following the advice of the Board of Elections, and will sign an executive order to do this.” Later in the day, she signed an executive order that looked back at the 2016 presidential primaries when “over 180,000 Rhode Islanders cast their ballots at.. over 146 polling places,’’ and then ahead to this year’s primary with a potential 182 polling places with a minimum of 8 poll workers each. Read More

Rhode Island: Board seeks delay, mail ballots for presidential primary | John Howell/Johnston Sun Rise

Following the call from the State Board of Elections to postpone the April 28 presidential preference primary to June 2, Dottie McCarthy is breathing easier – although the challenge ahead is daunting. The April 28 date is set by law and to change would require the governor to issue an executive order to override the law. That hadn’t occurred as of Wednesday afternoon. “As we’ve seen, this is a quickly evolving situation. The Rhode Island primary is still more than a month away, and the Governor’s top priority is protecting the immediate public health and safety of Rhode Islanders. She is open to the idea of moving the election date and will rely on guidance from public health and election officials to inform that decision,” Josh Block, the governor’s spokesperson, said in an email. In response to efforts to control the coronavirus, the Board of Elections would mail primary ballots. While this will eliminate the congregation of people at the polls, voting isn’t going to be as simple as walking into the polls, giving your identification and picking up a ballot. Read More

Rhode Island: Elections board votes to move primary to June | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

Rhode Island’s Board of Elections is seeking to postpone the April 28 presidential preference primary until June 2 to give the state more time to prepare, if necessary, for a potential COVID-19-driven move to an all mail ballot election. The board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to ask Gov. Gina Raimondo to take all measures necessary — including potentially issuing another emergency executive order — to override the state law that now requires the primary to take place on April 28. Raimondo spokesman Josh Block responded: “She is open to the idea of moving the election date and will rely on guidance from public health and election officials to inform that decision.” The board’s executive director, Robert Rapoza, cited several arguments for a delay. Among them: “Process is currently disrupted because local communities are operating under severe restrictions due to Coronavirus precautions. … April 28 is only 6 weeks away. Outbreak is expected to last longer. Coronavirus situation may improve in May or June. … Protective gear and cleaning supplies may be easier to obtain and provide to the polls.” Read More

Rhode Island: After Iowa fiasco, is Rhode Island’s voting tech ready for Primary Day? | John Krinjak/WLNE

Who knew a smartphone app could grind a caucus to a halt? Earlier this month in Iowa, it took days for Democratic officials to figure out who won. Here in Rhode Island, that fiasco is raising some eyebrows. “Any time there is a problem in an election in the United States, it’s troubling,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. With our primary coming up on April 28th, Gorbea wants to reassure concerned voters. “They might mistakenly believe that’s what’s happening in Iowa, could happen in Rhode Island, when it can’t. they have a completely different system. They have caucuses, we have primaries, and we are really well set up for our primary,” said Gorbea. She says Rhode Island is taking steps to make sure it all goes off without a hitch. “Every day until Primary Day and beyond, the state-whether it be the board of canvassers or at the state board of elections or in my office-we will all be working to make sure that that primary election happens smoothly,” said Gorbea. Read More

Rhode Island: Board of Elections votes to purchase new modems to enhance security | Mark Reynolds/Providence Journal

The Rhode Island Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to enhance the security of the voting system by acquiring new modems for the machines that tabulate votes and embracing other recommendations of a recent security assessment. The board took action after releasing a public copy of the security assessment and taking input from Rhode Island National Guard Col. R. Michael Tetreault, who was part of a team that helped draft the assessment. The state Division of Information Technology and the Rhode Island Guard Defensive Operations Element looked at “technology enhancements” made to the state’s election management system, according to a report obtained Tuesday by The Providence Journal. The initiative also reviewed efforts to reduce risk based on recommendations made last year. Read More

Rhode Island: Elections board discusses voter-system security | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

Voting by email. Upgrading the modems used to transmit election-day vote tallies.  Unmasking the donors hiding behind names like “The Coalition to Make Our Voices Heard” who pour money into campaigns. On a day Russian interference in past U.S. elections again made news, Rhode Island election officials waded into this quagmire without making any final decisions on what to do next. For example, they briefly weighed the pros and cons of allowing overseas voters — such as members of the military — to cast their R.I. election ballots from afar by email. The idea was shelved — at least for now — pending more study, after one member after another of the state Board of Elections voiced concern about the security of ballots cast in this fashion, despite assurances the ballots would be sent to a dedicated “address.” “I think we need to look very carefully at the security issues,” said the vice chairman, Stephen P. Erickson. It was unclear who authored the email-voting proposal that appeared on the board’s agenda, alongside a proposal to upgrade from 3G to 4G the modems the state uses on election-day to transmit results to state Board of Elections headquarters. That proposal too was put on hold — until next week — amid warnings from Brian Tardiff, the information security officer for the state’s Division of Information Technology, that making public all of the findings of a cybersecurity analysis of Rhode Island’s election system could put the system at risk. Read More

Rhode Island: Voting Chief Says Paper Ballots Are Essential | Sean Flynn/Newport Daily News

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea told her audience on Friday how during the March 2016 presidential primary she was accused on election-related websites of rigging the election in favor of Hillary Clinton to the detriment of Bernie Sanders and closing down polling sites. “A year later it was determined that Bernie bots of the Russian Internet Research Agency were at work,” Gorbea said. “If your head is spinning, believe me, everyone’s head is spinning.” Gorbea was addressing more than 140 election officials and information technology experts who gathered for a five-hour Cybersecurity Summit at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center in Newport. Media were allowed to listen for 1 ½ hours, but then cleared out before speakers like Noah Praetz, a senior election security advisor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Jessica Cone, a specialist with the U.S. Elections Infrastructure — Information Sharing and Analysis Center, made their presentations. “We don’t want to give away our game plan,” Gorbea said. Read More

Rhode Island: Report examines ways to adopt election audit system in Rhode Island | Jennifer McDermott/Associated Press

A new report recommends how to adopt a system for auditing election results required in Rhode Island. Common Cause, Verified Voting and The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released the report Tuesday. They helped the state design and test the risk-limiting audit system this year. Rhode Island will first use risk-limiting audits for the 2020 presidential primaries. There are three ways to do the postelection audit. The report recommends a ballot-level comparison because of its efficiency, transparency and relatively predictable cost. That type of audit would compare the vote on an individual ballot to the machine’s recording of the vote on that ballot, which requires the fewest number of ballots to be examined. The other methods, ballot polling and batch comparison, compare more ballots to totals produced by the machines and require the examination of far more ballots, John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said Tuesday. Read More

Rhode Island: Protecting elections in Rhode Island | Providence Journal

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s most important job is to make sure Rhode Island elections are on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, she has unilaterally blocked the public from obtaining information that was previously available in digital form to check on the accuracy of the voter lists she maintains. (In this year’s session, the legislature balked at Ms. Gorbea’s attempt to deny the public such information by law.) And now it turns out that she bought voting machines that could be liable to hacking. The issue came to light recently through a Vice.com investigation, which found that, for a period of time, Rhode Island’s elections system was connected to the internet. The public had been assured the machines were walled off from potential hacking. Researchers were able to find online the reporting system for results from the entire state. Not good. The problem is striking a balance between quick reporting of results — which in itself helps protect our elections from fraud — and making sure machines are free from tampering. Modems in the voting machines Ms. Gorbea bought transmit election results quickly to the state Board of Elections after the polls close. Read More

Rhode Island: Security expert offers solution to prevent hacking of election computers in Rhode Island next year | Edward Fitzpatrick/The Boston Globe

A computer security expert is proposing a solution that would let the state Board of Elections bolster its cybersecurity on Election Day without having to rip out modems that make the state’s election system vulnerable to cyberattacks. On Aug. 2, the Board of Elections asked Tony Adams, an information security professional who lives in Providence, to write a memo suggesting ways to reduce the risk of hacking on election night, when modems are used to quickly report unofficial results. In an Aug. 14 memo, Adams suggests having the modems report unofficial results to computers that are separate from the state’s core election computer system, which configures ballots and tabulates official results. That way, if hackers did penetrate the system on election night, they couldn’t change the official results or hold the whole system hostage with ransomware, for example, he said. “This idea is so elegant you have to ask: Why didn’t I think of that?” Board of Elections Vice Chairman Stephen P. Erickson said this week. “Because you don’t have to spend a lot of money, it’s relatively simple to implement, and it will substantially increase the level of security — and the perceived security, which is important.” Read More

Rhode Island: Voting machines had modems in 2016 and 2018. Now the state is assessing its hackability. | Patrick Anderson/Providence Journal

Before the 2016 election, the state bought voting machines equipped with Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections — speeding the state’s ability to declare winners on election night, but also exposing the system to potential meddling. The Providence Journal delivers accurate, timely news about the moments that matter most. To receive stories like this one in your inbox, sign up here. Election hacking fears rekindled by the federal Russia probe have prompted Rhode Island election officials to take a closer look into whether the state’s voting systems are vulnerable to attack. The new concerns relate to the state’s decision to buy voting machines before the 2016 election equipped with their own Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections after the polls close. The modems have helped shorten the time it takes the state to declare winners on election night. But because any internet connection exposes a system to potential cyberattack, the federal government never certified the modem-equipped machines for states to use. And this summer the U.S. Senate committee investigating Russian efforts to breach the 2016 election urged states to tighten their election security, use only federally approved voting machines and “remove (or render inert) any wireless networking capability” such as a modem. Read More

Rhode Island: Report prompts elections officials to examine security of voting systems | Patrick Anderson/Providence Journal

The Providence Journal delivers accurate, timely news about the moments that matter most. To receive stories like this one in your inbox, sign up here. Election hacking fears rekindled by the federal Russia probe have prompted Rhode Island elections officials to take a closer look into whether the state’s voting systems are vulnerable to attack. The new concerns relate to the state’s decision to buy voting machines before the 2016 election equipped with their own Verizon modems that transmit preliminary election results to the state Board of Elections after the polls close. The modems have helped shorten the time it takes the state to declare winners on election night. But because any internet connection exposes a system to potential cyber attack, the federal government never certified the modem-equipped machines for states to use and this summer the U.S. Senate committee investigating Russian efforts to breach the 2016 elections urged states to tighten their election security, use only federally-approved voting machines and “remove (or render inert) any wireless networking capability,” such as a modem. Read More

Rhode Island: State Rebuilding Central Voter Registration System Ahead of 2020 | GoLocalProv

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea joined GoLocalProv News Editor Kate Nagle on LIVE where she spoke to the office overseeing the rebuilding of the central voter registration system this year — and why she fears early voting not passing the General Assembly this year will have consequences in 2020. “We are in the process of making sure that our hardware an internet structures are secure — so Stonewall Solutions, I’m proud to say a Rhode Island company from Pawtucket — just won the RFP for rebuilding our central voter registration system, so we are secure to modern-day standards,” said Gorbea. “It was a great program back in 2003 when we first built it but now you know it needs to be upgraded.” Read More

Rhode Island: Contract awarded to build central voter registration system | Associated Press

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says a contract has been awarded to build a new central voter registration system for the state. The Democrat announced Thursday that Stonewall Solutions, of Pawtucket, was awarded the contract. The computer database, designed in 2005, houses the state’s list of registered voters and acts as Rhode Island’s election management system. Gorbea says a modernized system will help ensure elections are secure and streamline the way election officials process voter records, update the voter list, check ballots and certify mail ballots. Read More

Rhode Island: Brown University study on Rhode Island voter ID law raises questions | Providence Journal

Opponents of Rhode Island’s eight-year-old voter ID law cheered this week when research showing the law stifled voting by low-income residents appeared to confirm their long-held fears. The study from Brown University academics published by the National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] found that the photo ID law passed in 2011 and used for the first time in 2014 resulted in a “significant decline in turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration (for more vulnerable groups of voters) in presidential elections after the law was implemented.” After making the rounds among national election law watchers Monday, the study was cited in a General Assembly press release Wednesday promoting Sen. Gayle Goldin’s package of voting reform bills, including one to repeal the voter ID law. Read More

Rhode Island: Russia Wants to Undermine Trust in Elections. Here’s How Rhode Island Is Fighting Back | Time

When a group of Rhode Island’s top officials gathered in a chilly warehouse in Providence in mid-January to fight foreign interference in U.S. elections, the mood was festive. After Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s name was pulled out of a knit Patriots hat, the crowd applauded and cheered uproariously. And when she leaned over a plastic table to roll a 10-sided die typically used for Dungeons and Dragons, people watched intensely. Then the work began. The number generated from 20 rolls of the dice was used to pick the ballots that would be pulled and tested to see if November’s vote counting had been done correctly, a final fail-safe against a hacked election, all done in plain view of the public. “Democracy and elections are only as good as whether people trust them or not,” Gorbea said. “Confidence in our democracy is critical to every other public policy issue.” Voting experts say this kind of election audit is critical to thwarting attempts to meddle with American democracy. It not only detects problems with ballot counting, but the open nature of the audit itself also helps restore voters’ confidence in the system. Read More