Independent Richard Tomlins is no longer a candidate for one of Cranston’s citywide City Council seats, after the Rhode Island Board of Elections unanimously upheld a decision by the local Board of Canvassers to not accept several of Tomlins’ nomination papers.
“It’s awfully frustrating. Those people who signed, they’re angry because their signature was taken away on a technicality,” Tomlins said.
At a hearing last Thursday, the Cranston Board of Canvassers reaffirmed that they would not accept signatures submitted on copied nomination papers. That decision was upheld by the state BOE on Monday afternoon.
State statute dictates that any copied nomination papers must first be time stamped by the local canvassing authority prior to being used to collect signatures from supporters of that candidate.
“The statute is quite simple; it says if you have photocopies made of nomination papers, you have to bring them into the local Board of Canvassers and have them time stamped,” explained Cranston BOC Chairman Joseph DeLorenzo. “It was an easy decision for the board to make. The law is the law; there’s nothing I can do.”
Tomlins submitted 38 signatures on photocopied papers identical to the originals. If those voters proved to be certifiable (registered and active voters from a Cranston address), it would have put him over the 200-signature threshold needed for a citywide council seat. Tomlins said Monday that he has even more nomination papers signed by active voters, but those too were collected on copied forms.
“I probably have at least another 100 signatures,” he said. “I know enough to know that if you need 200, you should get 300.”
Without those valid signatures, though, Tomlins had only 189 signatures – 11 shy of qualification. He believes this ruling has disenfranchised voters, not only the ones who signed to support his candidacy, but also those who would benefit from his plans for office, such as a five-year fiscal plan.
DeLorenzo said he has never before seen this issue come before the board, but he said the impetus is upon candidates to educate themselves on election law and the running process.
“He knew this,” DeLorenzo said of the rules. “If you’re going to go out there and have papers printed, you might as well go in and get the originals.”
Tomlins previously ran as a Democrat for Mayor in 2010. That position also requires the candidate to collect 200 signatures.
Candidates have 10 days to collect signatures from active voters living in the area they hope to represent.
This year, candidates had from July 3 through July 13 at 4 p.m. to collect enough signatures to qualify. Tomlins said the timing was challenging because of the Independence Day holiday but he was still out collecting signatures along with five volunteers in his campaign.
Though the BOE made their ruling, Tomlins is still considering an appeal in the courts.
“I know I’m right,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong on purpose.”
There are still seven candidates in the running for the council’s three citywide seats: Republicans James Carr, Jim Donahue and Leslie Luciano; Democrats Michael Farina, John Lanni Jr. and Sarah Kales Lee; and Independent candidate Robert Pelletier.