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Monday, October 12, 2020

VOTE! Early voting in RI begins Oct. 14

Be sure you follow the instructions to make sure your vote counts
By Will Collette

I cast my first vote in 1968, choosing Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon; it was also the first of many times I voted for the losing candidate. 

Every election is important so despite my lifetime losing record, I still exercise my right and duty to vote, especially in an election so important as Election 2020.

Donald Trump and conservative Republicans don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing so they are scared to death of a big voter turn-out this year. They are pulling out all the stops to impede your right to vote, even here in Rhode Island.

That included an effort by state Republicans to make it harder to vote by mail - included on the legal GOP legal team were Charlestown's state Rep. Blake "Flip" Filippi and Charlestown special counsel for Indian Affairs Joe Larisa. They lost in the Supreme Court, 6-3, with the Notorious RBG (may she rest in peace) voting in the majority. 

The GOP promises to have poll watchers and lawyers crawling all over the voting process to catch any errors and to exploit any opportunity to challenge or suppress the vote. We'll see if they are able to carry out that threat. 

All the more reason for all of us to resolve to vote this year, using one of the three options Rhode Island offers: vote by mail, vote early in-person, vote on November 3 in-person.

You can easily check your current voter status on-line using a very simple tool offered by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea called MY VOTER RECORD. Fill out the basic info and click to see if you are registered. It also tells you what precinct and legislative districts you are in. 

And it tells you the status of your mail ballot. On mine, for example, it shows that they mailed me my mail-in ballot on October 5. I've received it already. It will log the date I return it and will show whether my ballot was accepted. How cool is that?

So, let's look at the voting process with special attention to things that could cause your vote to be disqualified.

Early in-person voting, starting October 14

This is a new option added this year. Make sure you have your photo ID and your mask or face covering. 

In Charlestown, go to the Charlestown Board of Canvassers, Town Hall, 4540 South County Trail, Charlestown RI from October 14, 2020 through November 2, 2020 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I suggest you call ahead at 364-1200.

Vote by mail

The deadline to apply is October 13. There is NO time left for you to mail in your request so if you want a mail-in ballot, you will have to get it in person at the Board of Canvassers (see above). Call ahead to make an appointment (364-1200).

Next, when you get your ballot package, keep all the pieces. Read all the instructions because you MUST follow those instructions.

Vote. Candidates are on the main page, ranging from those running for President (you’ll be surprised at how many fringe candidates appear on the ballot) to municipal office.

On the flip side of the ballot is State Question 1, asking you to approve or reject removing “Providence Plantations” from the official state name.

Next – and this is important – put your completed ballot in the “Voter’s Mail Ballot Certificate” envelope. Fill out the Certificate envelope completely. Sign it – your signature on this envelope will be compared to the way you signed your ballot application to make the match.

I suggest you add the optional information – driver’s license number or last four digits of your Social Security number to underscore the legitimacy of your ballot.

Unlike past election cycles, you DO NOT need to get two witnesses or a notary to witness you signing your ballot certificate. This was the issue in the GOP lawsuit that was dismissed, 6-3, by the Supreme Court. Flip Filippi, Joe Larisa et al. wanted to retain the rule that you have to get witnesses for your mail-in ballot to count.

Seal the Certificate envelope and put it inside the return envelope.

IMPORTANT: If you simply put your ballot in the return envelope addressed to the state Board of Elections WITHOUT using the inner Certificate envelope, you have cast what’s called a “Naked Ballot” and it will be disqualified.

These Pennsylvania public officials have let it all hang out to prevent voters from casting invalid, "Naked Ballots." Pennsylvania uses the same system as Rhode Island. Photo from Bethany Hallam's twitter site.

Now you can either mail your ballot via US Postal Service or stick it in the drop box outside Town Hall.

CLICK HERE to read the official instructions from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

It is UNCLEAR what will happen to ballots received AFTER November 3. Governor Gina Raimondo has been asked to issue an Executive Order to resolve timing issues that resulted in more than 100 ballots that were disqualified because they were received after November 3.

Gina has not acted on the Voting Access Coalition’s request. The Coalition wants unpostmarked ballots received on November 4 and ballots postmarked November 3 or earlier but received after November 3 up to and including November 6 to be counted.

SIMPLEST SOLUTION for you: eliminate timing as an issue by sending your mail-in ballot as soon as possible, ensuring your vote is received and accepted before Election Day.

Ignore Donald Trump's illegal call that supporters vote once by mail and then go and vote in person to make sure their vote is counted. Even if Trump made sense on this issue, you can track your ballot by CLICKING HERE.

In-person voting on Election Day.

Charlestown has four precincts roughly dividing the town into quadrants with Precincts 1 and 2 covering the town north of Route One and Precincts 3 and 4 covering south of One. Each precinct has its own polling place. 

CLICK HERE for Charlestown’s voting official voting instructions. It includes the polling site for each precinct.

Mail-ins and early in-person voting should greatly reduce lines at the polling places. One big unknown is whether Trump supporters will heed his call to "go into the polling places" to watch and guard against nearly non-existent voter fraud. 

Personally, I think it's a bluff, but there may be some right-wing yahoos and maybe even some militia guys outside polling stations trying to scare people away. 

Hold your head high and do your duty. I suggest, however, that you refrain from reacting to taunts or engaging with them. In this instance, your vote is your voice.