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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Voters want to see voting changes made during pandemic become permanent

Let RI Vote releases poll in support of legislation to make voting easier

By  Steve Ahlquist 

By Mike LuckovichAtlanta Journal-Constitution
The Rhode Island Voting Access Coalition released the results of a poll on May 12 showing strong public support for changes that are part of the Let RI Vote campaign. 

While other states are actively enacting voter suppression laws, the Let RI Vote campaign has focused on safely and securely expanding access to the ballot for all eligible voters. The poll results show strong bipartisan support for policies to make voting easier.

Over a dozen State Senators and Representatives gathered outside the large VOTE mural on Ship Street in Providence to announce the polls results. The VOTE mural is the creation of four artists, Kendel JosephJessica BrownAngela Gonzalez,

and Mikey Fernandez.

  • The survey shows that of Rhode Island voters who cast ballots in 2020:
  • 86% believe that “making voting easy” is “important” (65% of voters say that it is “very important”)
  • 66% of Republicans say that “making voting easy” is “important” (38% say it is “very important”)
  • 82% of unaffiliated voters say that “making voting easy” is “important” (57% say it is “very important”)
  • 96% of Democratic voters say that “making voting easy” is “important” (81% say it is “very important”)
More than 40% of voters surveyed said pandemic-related changes made it “easier” to vote than in past years. The Rhode Island Voting Access Coalition supports legislation to make COVID-era changes permanent, and make other improvements. 

The Coalition created the Let RI Vote campaign to support two pieces of legislation, the Let RI Vote Act (H6003/S0516), and a constitutional amendment that would allow same day voter registration (H5983/S0569). The Let RI Vote Act makes permanent the many temporary changes made during the pandemic.

The poll, commissioned by Coalition partner, Represent Us, and conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, shows that Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support these policies to make voting more accessible for every eligible voter.

The poll showed strong voter support for the proposed changes:

  • 71% support early voting options
  • 61% support for using signature matching, not witnesses/notary to verify the voter’s identity
  • 57% support “no excuse” mail ballot applications
  • 60% support allowing voters to request a mail ballot online
  • 56% support a permanent mail ballot voter list
In addition to expanded access to mail ballots and early voting, the Let RI Vote campaign includes a resolution to amend the Rhode Island Constitution and allow for same-day registration.
The survey showed strong voter support same-day voter registration:

  • 61% support same-day voter registration
The survey also asked voters how they cast ballots in 2020:
  • only 38% voted in-person on Election Day
  • 29% cast in-person ballots during Early Voting
  • 33% used mail ballots
  • 60% of those voters mailed their ballots back; while 40% used ballot drop boxes to return their mail ballots
  • For 65% of those voters, it was their first time using a mail ballot; only 35% had ever used a mail ballot before

Polling Methodology:

  • 500 interviews among 2020 voters were conducted from April 27-29, 2021.
  • Interviews were conducted over the phone (both landline and cell phones).
  • Results were weighted to ensure proportional response.
  • The comparative margin of error for results is ±4.4% at the 95% confidence level. This number is higher for subgroups.

Marcela Betancur, executive director of Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University, emceed the event.

Highlights from speakers' remarks:  

“Last year proved beyond a doubt that we can improve access to the ballot box while protecting the integrity of every vote,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. “At a time when many states are working to restrict voting options for their citizens, we must continue to be a leader in voting access by enacting the Let Rhode Island Vote Act.”

“In 2020 Rhode Islanders were given choices to cast their ballots and they responded in record numbers,” said Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown). “After our state ran four successful elections giving voters those choices it’s time to make those changes permanent. All Rhode Islanders deserve an opportunity to vote by mail, or early, or on Election Day, in a manner that is safe and secure.”

“In the middle of a pandemic, a record number of Rhode Islanders cast ballots in the 2020 elections,” said Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence). “Changes that were made in response to COVID made it easier for people to vote, and more people voted. Rhode Island’s voter turnout was 6 points higher than in 2016. The same thing happened all across the country. It’s pretty obvious that when voters have options about how to cast their ballots, more people vote.”

“We need to modernize all aspects of voting here in Rhode Island to reflect advances in technology and the way Rhode Islanders live, work, and participate in civic life now,” said Senator Alana DiMario (Democrat, District 36, Narragansett). 
“We have the capacity to verify residency much faster than when the 30-day registration requirement was put in place, and it’s time to put a question on the ballot in 2022 to remove that requirement from the state constitution and move us closer to same-day voter registration for local and state elections.”
RI Voting Access Coalition member organizations include:
  • ACLU of Rhode
  • Alliance of RI Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE)
  • Brown Votes
  • CaneiWalk
  • Clean Water Action Rhode Island
  • College Democrats of Rhode Island
  • Common Cause Rhode Island
  • Every Vote Counts Brown University Chapter
  • Formerly Incarcerated Union of Rhode Island
  • Housing Network of Rhode Island
  • Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University
  • League of Women Voters of Rhode Island
  • NAACP Providence Branch
  • National Council of Jewish Women, RI Action Team
  • National Federation of the Blind of Rhode Island
  • Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
  • Represent US
  • Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence
  • Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless
  • Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights
  • Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus
  • Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council
  • Rhode Island Latino PAC
  • Rhode Island NOW
  • Rhode Island Working Families Party
  • The Womxn Project
  • United Auto Workers Region 9A
  • Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

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