In an attempt to cut down on long lines on Election Day Representative Deb Ruggerio (D- Jamestown, Middletown) has proposed legislation that would allow Rhode Islanders to cast ballot over a span of three weeks prior to the election.
The "early voting" bill would allow voters to begin voting on the third Thursday before a primary until the Friday before the scheduled election. Voters would cast their ballots in person at a designated location, like the a municipalities town hall, on weekdays beginning at hours not later than 9 a.m. and ending no earlier than 4:30 p.m.
"Early voting is convenient, and anything we can do to make voting more convenient is a step forward for democracy. We want people to be able to make their voice heard, and not to skip voting because they don't have time to wait in a long line on Election Day. If they have options, they can go at the time that works for them," said Ruggiero.
Ruggiero noted that the past election cycle highlighted the need for an early voting process in Rhode Island.
"This last election was a perfect storm contributing to many long lines and confusion at so many polling places in cities and towns across our state. People were confused with redistricting, the reduced number of polling places and the change in the closing of polls from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. If voting were done over the course of several weeks instead of in a single day, there would be sufficient time for state to properly handle those problems that inevitably arise without leaving voters frustrated or disenfranchised," she said
Governor Lincoln Chafee has also thrown his support behind the bill.
Currently 32 other states and Washington D.C. have early voting practices in place.