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Elections in Rhode Island
Election Day is a community endeavor with multiple levels of stakeholders.
In Rhode Island, elections administration is a collaboration between the Elections Division here at the Department of State, the State Board of Elections, and the local cities and towns.
Below is an infographic to give an overview of which agency handles different aspects of elections administration.
Responsibilities of the Board of Elections
- Oversees campaign finance
- Trains poll workers
- Tests and prepares voting machines
- Tests and prepares e-poll books
- Oversees Election Day operations statewide
- Tallies initial results
- Certifies election results
Responsibilities of the Boards of Canvassers
- Maintains local voter records
- Certifies nomination papers
- Processes mail ballot applications
- Identifies polling locations
- Recruits poll workers
- Processes emergency mail ballots
- Oversees Election Day operations locally
- Reconciles and updates local voter records
Responsibilities of the Department of State
- Trains local officials on CVRS
- Maintains Online Voter Registration
- Certifies State and Federal Candidates
- Prepares ballots
- Prepares and sends mail ballots to voters
- Prepares elections calendar
- Provides voter and candidate information guides
- Provides Voter IDs
Frequently Asked Questions about Elections Administration in RI
What voting machines are used in Rhode Island?
In 2015, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea was tasked with researching, evaluating, and identifying a cost-effective strategy for procuring and implementing 21st century voting technology for use statewide.
She involved a diverse group of stakeholders in the selection process and assessed, with input from the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, the latest voting equipment available on the market.
Election Systems & Software (ES&S) was selected as the vendor for the state’s new voting equipment. The state procured 590 new DS200 optical scan voting machines.
What security measures are in place for the voting machines?
The DS200 voting machines are optical scan machines that use paper ballots. These voting machines are not connected to the internet while polls are open and have several layers of redundancy for security.
- After polls close, the voting machine prints the unofficial results from that polling place.
- Each machine also has an encrypted thumb-drive that stores the unofficial results and scanned images of each of the voted ballots.
- Unofficial results are then encrypted and modemed to the Board of Elections on election night.
- All voted ballots are available for auditing/recounts.
This means results can then be compared with the paper receipt, the scanned images, and the actual paper ballots.
What are electronic poll books?
Beginning in 2018, voters statewide will check into their polling place using an electronic poll book.
In jurisdictions across the U.S., electronic poll books have been proven to reduce voters' wait time and dramatically increase data accuracy and efficiencies at the local boards of canvassers. Jurisdictions in 33 states use electronic poll books.
What security measures are in place for electronic poll books?
The electronic poll book system maintains multiple levels of security to ensure confidentiality and integrity of all devices, communications, data, and systems. All traffic to and from the system is encrypted ensuring it is always up to date with the latest encryption standards and supported by industry leading network teams.
What are Risk Limiting Audits?
In 2017, Rhode Island became the second state in the country to authorize risk limiting audits. These audits use statistics to determine how many ballots need to be hand-counted to verify Election Day results. The closer the margin of victory, the more ballots will be hand-counted.
What is the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS)?
The Rhode Island Central Voter Registration System (CVRS) is the statewide database of registered voters. The CVRS is in a closed network that requires multi factor authentication. Systems that have access are restricted at the network level and further restricted by the individual computer. Additionally, users are restricted by username/password.
What is Online Voter Registration?
Rhode Island implemented online voter registration in 2016. Eligible Rhode Islanders may use the system to easily register to vote or update their voter information and their party affiliation. A valid Rhode Island Driver’s License or State ID number is required to use the system.
What is Automatic Voter Registration?
Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea worked to pass Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in 2017. AVR improves the voter registration process, beginning at the DMV, by automatically registering citizens to vote unless they choose to “opt-out” of the process. This means when someone updates their address at the DMV they will also update their voter registration information. This will help eliminate the bloat in our voter rolls that occur from unintentional, duplicate voter registrations, and reduce the potential for voter fraud.
Automatically updating the voter rolls any time a citizen updates his/her address, initially at the DMV and in the future, at any government agency will help ensure that Rhode Island’s voter rolls are as accurate and up to date as possible.
Does Rhode Island have early voting?
Rhode Island has a form of early voting called Emergency Mail Ballots. Beginning 20 days before an election, voters can go to their local city or town hall to request an emergency mail ballot. No excuse is needed to vote an emergency mail ballot.
In 2018, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea re-introduced legislation to implement in-person early voting. If passed, voters could go to a polling location identified by their local city or town to cast their ballot early. Instead of the cumbersome mail ballot process, voters would check in on an electronic poll book, receive their ballot, vote, and cast it into a voting machine right then and there.