By: Carmen Russo
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Voting equipment in Rhode Island will undergo a series of upgrades during the presidential elections this fall. At a press conference Thursday morning, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea announced the use of technologies such as online voter registration, electronic poll books and modernized scanners to count ballots and deliver faster results.
“When I ran for office, I pledged to Rhode Islanders that I would utilize the latest technology to modernize elections in our state and I am pleased to make good on that promise today,” Gorbea said. “This new elections equipment is arriving at a really important time for our state. With election season already upon us, these improvements will absolutely transform the election process.”
Online voter registration will be available in the next week, according to Gorbea. It will also allow voters to electronically submit changes to their records, such as a new address. All information submitted online will still be verified by local election officials to maintain security. Governor Gina Raimondo was supportive of the electronic system when she spoke at the conference.
“Frankly, Rhode Island is a little behind. Thirty other states, I think, already have online voter registration. So this is a good thing,” Raimondo said. “Online voter registration seems simple, but it’s going to make it much more accessible for people to vote, and that’s exactly what we need to do.”
Electronic poll books will also be piloted at 59 voting locations this fall, which will allow voters to check in to their polling sites by scanning a driver’s license or searching by last name. The tablets will also make it easier for voters to find the correct location. If a voter checks into the wrong site, electronic poll books will allow the correct site to be sent via text or email, along with a map. To further expedite the voting process, 590 new ballot scanners will be sent to various locations. The machines will count ballots and deliver faster results through a secure wireless network connection.
After the press conference, Secretary Gorbea encouraged elected officials and audience members to test the new ballots and machines with votes about car manufacturers and ice cream flavors. From now until the November elections, canvassers throughout the state will demonstrate the use of the new equipment. A schedule of educational events will be released soon, according to Secretary Gorbea.
By: Carmen Russo